Wednesday, August 19, 2009

British lawmakers urge review of Sri Lanka arms exports

Britain should review all arms export licences to Sri Lanka in the wake of the recently-ended war with Tamil Tiger rebels, lawmakers said Wednesday.Ministers should also provide full details of what British arms were used by Sri Lankan forces during the conflict, the Committees on Arms Export Controls said in its annual report. "We recommend that the government should review all existing licences to Sri Lanka," the report said.

It also called on ministers to provide "an assessment of what UK-supplied weapons, ammunition, parts and components were used by the Sri Lankan armed forces in the recent military actions against the Tamil Tigers." But the lawmakers said it was "impossible" to be sure how many such weapons had been used against civilians since hostilities flared up again in 2006.

Sri Lankan security forces ended the LTTE's bloody, four-decade struggle for an independent Tamil homeland in May, as long-time Tiger chief Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed. "Sri Lanka highlights the need for the UK government to monitor closely the situation in countries recently engaged in armed conflict," the committees' chairman, lawmaker Roger Berry, said.

"It must assess more carefully the risk that UK arms exports might be used by those countries in the future in a way that breaches our licensing criteria." The report also said it was "regrettable" that components supplied by Britain were "almost certainly" used by Israeli forces in the three-week Gaza war from December in which over 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died.

"The government should continue to do everything possible to ensure that this does not happen in future," the committee said. It welcomed a government review of current licenses to Israel -- which has reportedly led to the cancellation of five out of 182 of them -- and the possibility that some could be revoked.

Britain has already refused to supply replacement parts for navy gunships used in the Gaza war, Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported last month. The Committees on Arms Export Controls are four parliamentary committees -- on business and enterprise, defence, foreign affairs and international development -- which work together to consider arms exports.

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