The arms trade and Sri Lanka - Alistair Burt MP

By: Alistair Burt MP

I was disappointed to read the article "Revealed: UK sells arms to Sri Lanka's brutal regime" (18 February), which misrepresented the UK's export control policy towards Sri Lanka.

The article suggested the UK had changed its policy towards Sri Lanka and was focused on selling more arms to the Sri Lankan military. This is not the case and the facts speak for themselves. During the period your article covered, only two licences were approved for the Sri Lankan military. One related to shotgun cartridges for sporting use and the other communications equipment for a transport aircraft.

The UK operates one of the most rigorous arms export control systems in the world. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are mandatory, and we will not issue an export licence if there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used for internal repression.

The small arms to which your article refers were for export to private maritime security companies engaged in legitimate work countering the threat of piracy, and not the Sri Lankan navy. Export licence applications for this equipment were considered thoroughly and licences only approved when certain conditions were met. Security companies, for example, must be signed up to the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers; equipment may only be used by personnel of the named security company; and restrictions on the number and storage of firearms must be observed.

Alistair Burt MP

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London SW1


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