The UK government is selling arms and security equipment to countries whose human rights records it has strongly criticized, according to lists of weapons cleared for export that have been seen by The Guardian.
The countries include Indonesia, where the UK Foreign Office has reported allegations of extrajudicial killings; Nepal, where it has reported summary executions; and Saudi Arabia, where torture is just one abuse of basic human rights to have been criticized.
Licenses have been approved this year for the export to Saudi Arabia of "security and paramilitary goods," hitherto unpublished figures show.
Items under this category were acoustic devices suitable for riot control purposes, anti-riot shields, leg irons, gangchains, electric shock belts, shackles, individual cuffs, portable anti-riot devices, water cannon, riot control vehicles and portable devices for riot control or self-protection by the administration of an electric shock.
The UK government's arms export guidelines state that licenses will be refused if there is a "clear risk [they] might be used for internal repression."
The exports to Saudi Arabia, which also include a wide range of military hardware and weapons systems, were cleared despite sharp criticism of the country in the foreign office's latest annual human rights report published in the summer.
"We continue to have deep concerns about Saudi Arabia's failure to implement basic human rights norms," it says, referring explicitly to capital and corporal punishment and restrictions on freedom of movement, expression, assembly and worship.
It adds: "We believe that between January and December 2002, the Saudi authorities executed about 46 people, one of the highest figures for any country in the world."
The government also approved export licenses for categories of arms including machine guns, rockets and missiles to Indonesia.
Indonesian forces are currently engaged in fierce fighting with pro-independence rebels in Aceh where British equipment is being used despite assurances from the government they would not be used for offensive or counter-insurgency measures.
After foreign observers were refused acces to Aceh, the government told members of parliament last month that it "remained concerned about the situation in Aceh."
British-built Saracen armored vehicles were being used by Indonesian forces in Aceh, human rights organization Tapol and the Campaign Against Arms Trade said this week.
Next week human rights activists in Indonesia are planning to challenge the legality of British arms exports to the country, Tapol said yesterday.
The foreign office says in its human rights report that the professionalism of Indonesian security forces had improved.
But "serious problems remain, with allegations of extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detention, rape, torture and mistreatment of prisoners," the report said.