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UK continues to sell arms to Sri Lanka

Despite evidence having emerged suggesting the Sri Lankan Army has violated international humanitarian law Britain has continued to sell weapons to Sri Lanka, continuing after the end of the decades-long ethnic conflict in 2009.

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) released a statement challenging the British government to explain why weapons are still being licensed to Sri Lanka despite evidence of serious war crimes.

Since the climax of the war in May 2009 over £3 million of military and “dual use” equipment has been licensed for export to Sri Lanka with weapons sales alone comprising over £2 million of the total.

Some of the items licensed include armoured military vehicles, assault rifles, body armour, and “decoying countermeasure equipment and components", coming under the heading of "grenades, bombs, missiles countermeasures".

See the full data for arms exports licenses to Sri Lanka on CAAT online app here.

Kaye Stearman, spokesperson for Campaign Against Arms Trade, said,

“The Arab Spring has bought world attention to the repression practiced by governments against their own people.”

“"Sri Lanka's Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished" brings a similar focus on the brutality exercised by the government of Sri Lanka against opposing forces and thousands of helpless civilians trapped in the warzone. We need to ask why the UK government continues to licence arms for export to Sri Lanka, given their long and proven knowledge of the situation.

Britain has previously come under scrutiny for selling weapons to Sri Lanka, with £13.6 million worth of arms provided to Sri Lanka from 2006-2009 as the Sri Lankan Army stepped up their offensive in the Vanni.

In 2009, a House of Commons committee recommended that all arms exports to Sri Lanka be reviewed, with MPs commenting,

“During the ceasefire, a wide variety of military equipment and weapons were exported to Sri Lanka, and, due to the extremely limited access of international observers to Sri Lanka, it is impossible to be certain how many of  those weapons were used subsequently against the civilian population when hostilities began to escalate again in 2006.”