Arms exports to Indonesia rise twentyfold
Arms exports to Indonesia have risen twentyfold in the past two years despite ministers' concerns about human rights violations by the military, and continual efforts by campaigners to highlight the situation.
Christian groups such as Pax Christi, the Movement for Christian Democracy and Christian Campaign Against the Arms Trade have repeatedly drawn attention to the holes in the Governmentís ìethicalî foreign policy over commercial arms exports to Indonesia.
In 1998 the Movement for Christian Democracy presented a 27,000 signature petition to Downing Street in partnership with Campaign Against the Arms Trade asking for arms exports to Indonesia to end.
The sale of Hawk Jets to Indonesia was also repeatedly criticised, when the incoming Labour Government failed to block sales in 1997.
Government figures also show big increases in exports of military equipment to other countries which have faced allegations of human rights abuses or internal repression.
The value of arms exports to Saudi Arabia, including rocket-launching equipment, machine-guns and assault rifles, have risen from £20.5m in 2001 to £29m in 2002.
Government figures also show big rises in exports of arms to countries in volatile regions. India, which is involved in a stand-off with Pakistan, has seen the value of arms ordered from Britain almost double from £60m to £118m. Licences for anti-aircraft guns, frigates, military helicopters and electron beam guns were granted last year.
Pakistan spent £15m on arms, including components for combat helicopters. Arms sales to Morocco boomed from £1.5m in 2001 to £20.5m last year, even though it is involved in a controversial dispute over the border region in the Western Sahara.
Arms control groups reacted with dismay at the figures in the 2002 UK Strategic Export Controls Annual Report yesterday. They said it was "very concerning" that exports to Indonesia had increased while there is continuing controversy over the export of Hawk jets to the country.
Andy McLean of Saferworld said: "Arms exports to a number of countries with human rights problems, internal conflicts or in regions of instability seem to be increasing. A new system of prior parliamentary scrutiny of arms export licences is urgently needed."
The report shows that export licences worth £41m were granted last year to Indonesia, compared with £15.5m in 2001, and £2m in 2000. Ministers have expressed concern over the use of British-made Hawk jets in Indonesia.
Mike O'Brien has told President Megawati Sukarnoputri that the jets should not be used for internal suppression. He said the jets were sold for training purposes and not to fight rebels.