Nearly a third of arms exports authorised by Britain over the past decade were to nations identified by the government as among the worst for human rights, new figures reveal.
Military arms deals worth an estimated £39bn were approved between 2008 and 2017, £12bn of which went to states included on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office human rights “priority countries” list, according to analysis by Action on Armed Violence.
Over that period, the only country on the 30-strong watchlist to which Britain did not approve arms export deals was North Korea.
The analysis of the figures, collated by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade using export control data from the Department for International Trade, shows a clear upward trend in arms sales approved to watchlist countries, although individual years vary. The values are likely to be a “conservative estimate”, CAAT said, due to an opaque system of “open” licences that allow an unlimited number of consignments over a fixed period.
The DIT confirmed open licences are included among export licence figures, but has denied they are subject to less scrutiny.
The data shows a record number of arms export licences to nations on the watchlist in 2017, almost double the previous year. While 2018 was not included in the study, the British deal to supply 48 Eurofighter Typhoons to Saudi Arabia, reported earlier this year, is worth £5bn alone, a value that dwarfs previous agreements.
In total, 5,782 export licences for military items in countries of concern were approved last year, worth £1.5bn, up from 2,477, worth £820m, in 2016.