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THE government is granting export licences for British firms to sell high-tech surveillance equipment to some of the world’s most repressive regimes, it was revealed today, as Boris Johnson met the autocratic Emir of Qatar in Downing Street.
Research by campaign group Global Justice Now also found that the government plans to ramp up arms sales to dictatorships including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) once Britain leaves the European Union.
The new Global Justice Now report, “Exporting Repression — how Britain is supplying surveillance technology to human-rights abusing countries,” is based on official government export data analysed by investigative journalists Mark Curtis and Matt Kennard.
It states: “The British government is continuing to approve the export of high-tech surveillance equipment and software of the type that is being used by states abusing human rights to monitor and repress dissent.
The report says that, in the past 12 months, “telecommunications interception equipment” or software and technology for such equipment has been exported to 13 countries including authoritarian regimes such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar.
The revelation comes as the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, was welcomed into Downing Street this morning by the Prime Minister for bilateral talks.
The Emir said he was “excited” to attend the meeting, which he hoped would bolster the “very strong relationship” which he said exists between the two nations.
Mr Johnson said: “The whole of this capital city is landmarked with symbols of that relationship, I am proud to say,” in reference to buildings such as the Shard.
But Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden slammed Britain’s cosy links to dictatorships, saying: “The British government appears to be addicted to selling dangerous products to repressive regimes.
“How on earth can anyone think it is acceptable to export surveillance equipment to autocratic regimes which are known to use such equipment to crack down on human rights?”
He said: “The new data lends further weight to Global Justice Now’s call on the British government to cease such exports in light of evidence they help fuel repression overseas and are illegal because they violate the government’s own export control guidelines.”
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