Anti-arms trade campaigners condemned the "hypocritical" British government today over its continued sale of weapons to repressive regimes in the Middle East and North Africa.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (Caat) said that while the Foreign Office had praised the democratic uprisings of the Arab Spring it continued to sell armaments to regimes such as Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Foreign Secretary William Hague launched the Foreign & Commonwealth Office's (FCO) annual Human Rights and Democracy report on Monday for 2011.
At the same time the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills belatedly released statistics for licences issued for military and other "strategic exports" for the final quarter of 2011.
The FCO report lauds the Arab Spring as the "most important prospect for the enlargement of human dignity and freedom since the end of the cold war."
But the export figures reveal that Britain continued to license arms for export to many Arab countries including over £1.7 billion worth of military exports to Saudi Arabia and significant amounts to Bahrain and Egypt.
The FCO report listed Saudi Arabia as a "country of concern" and highlighted human rights violations within the country, such as violations of human rights of women, migrant workers and religious minorities, torture and severe restriction of personal freedoms.
However despite this, Britain continued to license arms for export to Saudi Arabia, including "aircraft, helicopters, drones" valued at £1.708bn, "grenades, bombs, missiles and countermeasures" at £15 million and £1.5m for "small arms."
In terms of Bahrain the FCO noted: "Long-standing concerns about discrimination, corruption and marginalising of Bahrain's minority Shia population" and opposition protests which continued throughout 2011.
Amnesty International's latest report on Bahrain, published last month, said that human rights abuses continued.
While a number of arms export licences were revoked last February arms exports had resumed by June, reaching a total for the year of £2.25m.
The FCO also stated that the government supported "an orderly transition to a democratic system ... to meet the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people."
But since the overthrow of the Mubarak regime the country has been under military rule and repression continued with numerous reports of bloody crackdowns on democratic protests against the military regime.
The Department of Business, Innovation & Skills statistics revealed in 2011 that Britain continued to license arms for export to Egypt valued at over £2m.
Caat spokeswoman Kaye Stearman said: "The FCO report is fulsome in its support for human rights and democracy in Arab Spring countries. However, the BIS figures show that the government is happy to approve arms exports to the same governments which abuse and suppress human rights.
"It's time to end the double standards and stop selling weapons to these authoritarian and repressive regimes."
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