According to research group Action on Armed Violence’s (AOAV) latest report, the UK government is still selling teargas to countries that use violence. This includes the use of violence to crush internal dissent. And this has been taking place despite a number of the recipients being on the government’s own human rights watch list.
Sales to Bangladesh, Bahrain, Egypt, Maldives, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka have all been rubber stamped since 2008. But these are all on the Foreign Office human rights watchlist. France and Germany were also named in AOAV’s report. The report said:
France has been the most frequent purchaser of British tear gas in recent years, with 21 licences approved since 2015 for either military, law enforcement, or non-specified end users.
Amnesty International has recently criticised the use of teargas in crowd suppression in the country. Teargas is said to be a non-lethal weapon, but Action on Armed Violence says this may not be accurate:
Exposure can lead to lifelong breathing problems, miscarriages, permanent blindness, eye-damage and dermatitis. There have also been the recorded deaths of elderly and medically vulnerable people following its use.
AOAV reports that – in some cases – teargas has been sold to countries after those states had been known to have used it on protesters.
Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament Fabian Hamilton MP told AOAV:
The UK Government must consider the impact that the sale of this equipment has on human rights around the world and MPs on the Committee on Arms Export Controls must be permitted to undertake appropriate scrutiny.
It is vital that the Government is not granting licenses for arms sales to countries where there are legitimate concerns that equipment may be used for internal repression or in violation of international law.
AOAV director Iain Overton was critical of the idea, popular in foreign policy circles, of a ‘Global Britain’ which does good in the world. He said that the teargas would undermine democracy and be used to crush dissent:
There is much talk about a post-Brexit Global Britain, but such global trade is also in weapons that have been used in repressing and undermining democratic protest.
So, when we are exhorted to Build Britain Back Better, should this involve not selling armaments that seem only to make things worse?
As AOAV points out, it is hard to calculate how much teargas has been sold to human rights abusers due to the UK’s opaque trade practices. But once again the UK government’s real position on human rights has been called into question. It is high time that this immoral trade was banned.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?