UK Taxes Being Used to Build Dictator Arsenals

Members of Parliament have called into question Britain’s arms industry and other companies to explain why taxpayer funds have been used to help dictators build their arsenals worldwide.

The Members of Parliament have launched an official inquiry where they plan to question some of the world’s biggest defense and oil companies such as BP and BAE systems, as well as questioning over 40 years of British government involvement in selling weapons and parts to dictators worldwide (Guardian, May 2012).

BAE systems Hawk jet as bought by Robert Mugabe. Photograph: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images

There are several incidents being called into question. The most notable incident being examined is the loan of 35 million pounds given to Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe to buy 5 Hawk fighter jets which were purchased between 1989 and 1992 from BAE Systems. These jets were deployed in the 1998-2000 war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

A war which involved 5.4 million deaths.

Mugabe also purchased 1,030 police Land Rovers with the loan which he used to suppress opposition and demonstrations, as noted by Amnesty International  (Guardian, May 2012). The British government is even thought to have approved Zimbabwe’s purchase of parts to fix these weapons of war despite the country’s known involvement with the war in the DRC.

The loans specifically came from the Exports Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD, now known as UK Export Finance or UKEF) in Britain. Loans were also given to former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak to buy arms including helicopters and missiles, as well as to Argentina who bought two Type 42 Destroyers and two Lynx helicopters which were used in the invasion of the Falklands.

The inquiry launched by Members of Parliament is to ensure the now UKEF cleans up its act and no longer allows any shady deals.

Unfortunately the inquiry has no legal power to force the industry executives of former politicians to provide evidence, so the outcome of this inquiry is currently unclear. Suffice to say, taxpayer money was used to fund dictators’  purchase of weapons which would inflict human rights violations upon thousands and thousands of individuals.

The launch of this inquiry simply reflects the global community’s need for an arms trade treaty to control how weapons are bought, traded, and sold between countries and companies. If there were a trade treaty in place, dictators and their regimes would not be able to buy weapons to facilitate their campaigns as easily as they can now. Though there are some who are opposed to such a treaty, I believe a treaty of this nature would be very instrumental in decreasing the amount of human rights violations which occur daily.



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