20:35 GMT25 July 2021
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    LONDON (Sputnik) - Campaigners are considering taking the UK government to court over their exports of surveillance equipment to regimes believed to be implicated in human rights abuse, which, if proven, constitutes a violation of the European Union’s export rules, Nick Dearden, the director of Global Justice Now (GJN) campaign group, told Sputnik.

    Under EU legislation such as the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, the United Kingdom is required to consider the potential use of military or dual-use equipment prior to permitting sales to take place. The GJN maintains that the UK is currently exporting a plethora of surveillance-related technology including specialist "intrusion software" and communications monitoring equipment that could potentially be used to crack down on dissent.

    "If you look at what [export] procedures there actually are, much of those in Europe and Britain are actually quite good in terms of not selling this stuff when it can be used for human rights abuses, so these procedures are simply not working – they are either being ignored or loopholes are being found. These are exactly the loopholes we want to see closed, so we're looking at some kind of judicial review claiming that they [the government] have not followed their own procedures when it comes to exporting this kind of equipment," Dearden said.

    The export rules, for instance, stipulate several criteria which should be met to issue relevant export licenses, including holding the "respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country of final destination" as a binding requirement.

    The United Kingdom, meanwhile, supplies the equipment in question to the countries with "established record of major violations of international human rights," the campaign group maintains, citing Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Honduras as examples.

    Dearden suggested that the reason why such provisions were be being ignored could be vested interests of the arms industry, which enjoys undue influence on the UK government. Such interests are supposed to override at times the country’s obligations under international human rights law.

    "The arms sector has always had an incredibly strong hold over the British government, so I think what we are seeing here is that the UK is desperate to expand into other economic areas, which we've got no problem with, but why on earth would you do that in a way where this equipment can be used by dictatorial regimes to crack down on dissent in their own countries? … And I don't see how under (EU) guidelines you could justify doing that," Dearden argued.

    The campaigner also opined that the United Kingdom at times was ready to overlook its legal obligations for the sake of long-standing political ties with some countries, citing London's sales of military equipment to Saudi Arabia, involved in the deadly airstrikes on Yemen.


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    equipment, law, violation, export, surveillance, Global Justice Now (GJN), Nick Dearden, EU, United Kingdom
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