London, Aug.19 (ANI): A report prepared by the Commons Committee on Arms Export Controls has revealed that British weapons may have been used against Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka, and now, this is prompting calls for a review of the arms trade.
According to The Times, the committee has argued that all existing licenses to Sri Lanka should be investigated.
Members of Parliament on the committee specifically want to know which British arms the Sri Lankan forces used in this year's final offensive against the Tamil Tigers, in which an estimated 20,000 civilians died.
Concerns about arms exports were heightened by the Government's admission this year that British components were "almost certainly" used by Israeli forces during the Gaza offensive, in which up to 1,400 Palestinians died, many of them civilians.
The committee says that while the situation in Sri Lanka made it "impossible" to know how British weapons were deployed, there were legitimate concerns that they may have been used against civilians.
Britain approved the sale of over 13.6 million pounds of weapons and military equipment to Sri Lanka during the last three years of its civil war, including armoured vehicles, machinegun components, semiautomatic pistols and ammunition.
In the last quarter of 2008 Britain approved 21 licenses for more than 1.3 million pounds of supplies and declined two that were deemed to violate EU rules on such sales.
Britain is legally bound by the European Union code of conduct on arms transfers, which restricts the arms trade to countries facing internal conflicts or with poor human rights records and a history of violating international law. The code focuses not on the lethal potential of the weapon but on its end use.
The MPs have rejected the Gordon Brown Government's claim that it could not have anticipated the civilian toll in Sri Lanka, noting the dramatic increase of hostilities after the collapse of the ceasefire in 2006. (ANI)