- Many western nations claim to defend human rights around the world, putting sanctions on Iran and other countries until they reform
- However, reports show that the same countries which claim to defend rights are selling arms to oppressive regimes
- Britain and the United States are among the countries widely criticized by rights groups for their role in the arms trade
- Rights groups have repeatedly called for an end to arms sales to countries which commit abuses
A number of Western governments are claiming to respect human rights but at the same time selling arms to oppressive regimes.
Some of the biggest offenders are European countries such as the U.K., France, and Germany while the United States also stands guilty of similar offenses, according to rights groups and activists.
Britain is the second largest arms exporter in the world according to U.K. government statistics, trailing only the United States in a 2016 report by U.K. Trade and Investment.
British arms sales to Saudi Arabia increased by about 500 percent, according to a new report from the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).
Many Western governments regularly pay lip service to the cause of human rights on the national and international stage.
The British Foreign Office releases an annual report on the state of international human rights. In the most recent publication, officials listed 30 countries with a concerning human rights record.
The countries included on the list included Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Speaking ahead of the launch of the report, U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: “Promoting the values that Britain holds dear is not an optional extra, still less a vainglorious addition to our diplomacy; it is in keeping with centuries of tradition. This is part of who we are.”
Despite Mr. Johnson’s claims, Britain’s own track record on human rights was far less straightforward.
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Activists for the CAAT found that the U.K. had licensed arms to two-thirds of those on the same list.
The list included countries in the Middle East, which accounts for $9.3 billion of Britain’s arms trade each year.
In particular, Britain sold more than $5 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia since it began its bombing campaign in Yemen.
The campaign against the country’s Houthi rebels has claimed more than 10,000 civilian lives and has been heavily criticized by human rights groups and the United Nations.
Earlier this month the U.N. released a report criticizing the Saudi-led coalition for the number of child deaths in the strikes, which have targeted schools and hospitals.
This hasn’t stopped Britain and the U.S. from continuing to arm Saudi Arabia despite widespread calls for a U.N. arms embargo against Riyadh.
Only last month British officials signed a further military contract with the KSA in a sign of ever-deepening relations with the controversial state.
But the U.K. isn’t the only Western nation happy to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses in order to make a quick buck.
The White House netted $110 billion worth of potential arms sales to Saudi Arabia in May 2017 as part of a deal which saw President Trump visiting the Saudi Kingdom and dancing alongside Saudi royalty.
In the previous two years, the sent over 13,000 anti-tank missiles and almost 4,000 guided bombs to the KSA.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found that Saudi Arabia is among the largest weapons trading partners for both the U.S. and the U.K., making up 13% and 48% of the country's weapons exports respectively between 2012 and 2016.
Meanwhile, the same organization also found that Britain and the U.S. aren’t the only countries supplying heavy weapons to the KSA during the Yemen onslaught.
France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, and Canada all made millions while selling arms to Saudi Arabia.
However, Saudi Arabia isn’t the only controversial country receiving arms from human rights defenders in the West.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is set for a multi-billion dollar arms deal with Bahrain, a Sunni-led government which has cracked down hard on dissent and the country’s Shia minority.
Meanwhile, France, the U.S., and Britain have all provided weapons to Egypt’s government in recent years at a time when the regime of Abdel Fattah El Sisi has cracked down on dissent in all forms, including a recent assault against the country’s LGBT community.
Statistics from the SIPRI found that during 2012-16, 80% of Egypt’s imports of major conventional weapons came from the U.S. or France.
Overall, a study by CAAT released in 2016 showed that Britain sold arms to 39 of the 51 countries ranked “not free” on the Freedom House "Freedom in the world" report between 2010 and 2015.
“The U.K. is one of the world’s most successful defense exporters, averaging second place in the global rankings on a rolling ten-year basis, making it Europe’s leading defense exporter in the period,” U.K. Trade and Investment said in a report released in 2016.
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