By Charlie Miller
The British government is suspending a number of export licences to Egypt after an investigation into the export of military equipment sparked concerns that the exports might be used for “internal repression” Business Secretary Vince Cable announced on Friday.
The Scrutiny of Arms Exports and Arms Control Report, released on Wednesday prompted the suspension of five export licences in response to the changing political climate.
“Whilst we have no reports of British equipment being used in the unrest in Egypt, we have taken the decision to revoke five licences,” Cable said.
Cable expressed his “deep concern” regarding the situation in Egypt and explained that the British government “will not grant export licences where we judge there is a clear risk the goods might be used for internal repression, provoke or prolong conflict within a country.”
The report found over 3000 licences, with a value of more than £12.3 bn, had been approved for export to a number of Countries of Human Rights Concern, a list of 27 countries compiled by the Foreign Common Wealth Office (FCO). Although Egypt does not fall under this category, export links were investigated alongside those of Bahrain, Madagascar, Tunisia and Argentina.
The five suspended licences are reportedly communications equipment for tanks, armoured personnel carrier parts, antennae, machine gun components and radio equipment, which the Associate Press reported were destined for the Egyptian armed forces and police.
Egypt had a total of 134 such licences, including the five revoked on Friday, with a total value of £59.1m, with helicopter components and navigation equipment making up the majority of the spending, although “acoustic devices for riot control, body armour and helmets” accounted for over £1.1m.
A total of 43 export licences to Egypt were revoked between January 2011 and May 2013 as a result of “increased tension”.
Citing an anonymous FCO official, the Guardian reported that the revocation of the export licences was linked to “reports of military and police malpractice” during recent protests. “We judge that there is now a clear risk that the equipment covered by these licences might contribute to the excessive use of force during crowd control.”