The UK continues to export arms and military equipment to countries on the UK’s ‘Human Rights Priority List’, where there are particular concerns about human rights.

I recently wrote to International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, asking them to explain this policy which risks making the UK complicit in human rights abuses, killings and repression.

Read my letter below:

Secretary of State Liz Truss

Department of International Trade

Old Admiralty Building
Admiralty Place

CC: RH Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary

4 June 2021


Dear Liz,

Re: Arms export licenses for countries of concern for human rights and internal repression

As International Trade Secretary with oversight of the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU), which administers the UK’s system of export controls and licensing for military and dual-use items, I believe you have a unique opportunity to influence human rights around the world. This is something which concerns my constituents greatly.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office lists 30 Priority Countries “where we are particularly concerned about human rights issues, and where we consider that the UK can make a real difference.”

As I’m sure you are aware, the 30 Human Rights Priority Countries are: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Burundi, Central African Republic, China, Colombia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Libya, Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.

I am sure we both agree that the UK should be a beacon of human rights, democracy and justice – and that means ending the sale of weapons and military equipment to these countries. Selling arms where they may be used against civilians undermines the UK’s standing in the world and makes our nation complicit in human rights abuse.

  1. Can you explain why you continue to allow arms exports to the FCDO’s Countries identified as countries of concern for human rights and internal repression?
  2. Furthermore, can you explain what the government is doing to prevent human rights abuses with British-made arms and other military items?

I look forward to your response and would welcome an appointment to meet with you to discuss this.


Thangam Debbonaire, MP for Bristol West


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