Condemnation of UK diplomats and military for acting as 'cheerleaders' for arms sales to Kazakhstan

By agency reporter
September 28, 2020

Campaigners have condemned UK diplomats and armed forces representatives for acting as 'cheerleaders' for arms sales to the regime in Kazakhstan.

This follows a series of Tweets, on 25 September 2020, from the UK Embassy in Kazakhstan that highlighted its role in hosting meetings between the Royal Air Force, the Kazakstan Ministry of Defence and Airbus to promote the sale of military aircraft. According to the Tweets, UK personnel met with Askar Mamin, the authoritarian Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, and Nurlan Yermekbayev, the Defence Minister.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Defence "Representatives from the RAF and Airbus briefed the Kazakh Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure Development on how the A400M is an efficient and innovative aircraft that could effectively support their military operations."

Since 2015 the UK has licensed at least £6.5 million worth of arms to Kazakhstan, including sniper rifles and weapon sights and gun silencers. The real total could be notably higher, with some of the equipment being licensed via the opaque and secretive Open Licence system, which does not require the value of licences to be published.

The regime in Kazakhstan has been widely criticised by human rights monitoring groups, with Freedom House ranking the country 'not free' and noting that "Police at times use excessive force during arrests, and torture is widely employed to obtain confessions, with numerous allegations of physical abuse and other mistreatment documented each year."

Human Righst Watch says: "Kazakh authorities routinely break up or prevent peaceful protests criticising government policies and suppress independent trade union activity, closing trade unions and imprisoning trade union leaders. Kazakh authorities have used politically motivated prosecutions to silence government critics...Impunity for torture and ill-treatment persists."

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: "This is a shameful show of hypocrisy. UK diplomats and armed forces personnel are not sales people for Airbus. They should not be working in tandem with arms companies and acting as cheerleaders for arms sales.

"The regime in Kazakhstan has a very poor human rights record, and a long history of abuses. The UK government should be amplifying the voices of human rights defenders in Kazakhstan and beyond, not arming and supporting the regime that is repressing them."

* Read the Ministry of Defence statement here

* Campaign Against the Arms Trade


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