Revealed: Britain sells ex-RAF aircraft to Bahrain and other human rights abusers Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/essentials/news/revealed-britain-sells-ex-raf-aircraft-bahrain-human-rights-abusers/

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – JANUARY 1: Undated file photo of a C130J Hercules of 24 Squadron based at RAF Lynham. AFP PHOTO: Jack PRITCHARD/CROWN COPYRIGHT (Photo credit should read JACK PRITCHARD/AFP/Getty Images)

The government is under fire for the sale of ex-Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft to Bahrain, amid fears the planes could be used to support the deadly Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen. Bahrain has purchased two ex-RAF C-130J Hercules transport aircraft from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) as part of a government-to-government deal worth up to £30m, i can reveal. Bangladesh is also planning to buy two of the ex-RAF aircraft, which are capable of tactical operations, parachute insertions and the air dispatch of cargo, in a similar deal. Sri Lanka is also understood to be discussing the purchase of RAF aircraft. –– ADVERTISEMENT –– The sales come under a little-publicised government-to-government sales regime, which i can also reveal was used to transfer more than six million rounds of British Army ammunition to the Bahraini military, amid fears from rights groups it may be used in the country’s on-going crackdown on dissent. Support for air strikes Rights group have repeatedly raised concerns over the domestic human rights records of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, while Bahrain is engaged in an on-going domestic rights crackdown and is a key member in the Saudi-led air campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. “Bahrain has sent F-16 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia to support Yemen operations, so I think that’s how these C-130s will be used, as well as hunting safaris for the King,” said an aviation source with knowledge of the sale. The two-year long bombardment of Yemen has seen British-made weapons and combat aircraft operated by Saudi Arabia and its allies contribute to thousands of civilian deaths, and has been criticised by the UN and rights groups. More than 10,000 people have died in the conflict, amid the Saudi-led coalition’s relentless air campaign. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly condemned the Saudi-led coalition’s “bombardment and invasion” of Yemen, and shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith has called on the government to ensure the former RAF aircraft and British Army ammunition are not used for “either internal oppression or external aggression.” She told i: “Labour has called for the Committee on Arms Export Controls to be set up on a statutory basis, to enhance transparency and accountability regarding arms exports”. One careful owner Britain decided to withdraw its 10 C-130J aircraft from RAF service in 2015 after a major defence and security review. The Bahraini aircraft are currently being refurbished by Marshall Aerospace Group at Cambridge airport, where the aircraft have been seen in the Bahrain air force camouflage patter. Andrew Smith, spokesperson for the Campaign Against Arms Trade, said the sale of the aircraft and ammunition to Bahrain was an “unequivocal statement of political and military support for the Bahraini regime”. He said: “If these aircraft are used to aid the Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen then it can only intensify the humanitarian crisis.” Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said: “Theresa May’s government is prioritising unethical security and trade policies at the cost of human rights and long-term stability. The UK is fostering a culture of impunity by telling the Bahrainis they can continue to build a Made-in-Britain military while they arrest and torture critics at home. The sale of the C-130 aircraft comes amid concerns that the Government is concealing the true extent of Britain’s sales of arms by using government-to-government sales to transfer military equipment to authoritarian regimes. A government source said the aircraft could also be used for humanitarian missions and rescue operations. Last year i revealed that the government was encouraging a sharp rise in the use of secretive export rules to boost arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The use of government-to-government sales has been compared to the use of “open” licences which allow multiple arms consignment to be sent to a single destination over a period of five years without the value of the good being publicly declared. The Middle East is a key target market for British arms firms, who have exported more than £53m in weapons to Bahrain alone since Saudi Arabia helped the strategically-placed kingdom put down a pro-democracy uprising in 2011, according to the latest figures compiled by CAAT. Over the weekend the defence secretary announced a string of Gulf military deals and visits, adding to anger from arms trade campaigners. On a visit to Oman on Monday, Sir Michael Fallon signed a new deal to allow Royal Navy warships, including the much-vaunted Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers, to dock at a new military facilities in the country as part of a reneweed East of Suez military strategy. On Sunday he had announced that the Red Arrows would visit Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and UAE as part of a tour to boost arms sales and to show the UK is “open for business” after Brexit. “This tour is about selling fighter jets and strengthening UK relations with dictatorships,” said Smith. A government spokesperson, said: “All military sales are subject to rigorous assessment, including human rights, as we operate one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world.”

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