THE Foreign Office aren’t letting their own concerns about human right abuses get in the way of million-pound arm sales to some of the world’s most brutal regimes, the Sunday National can reveal.

In 2018, the UK Government published a list of 30 “human rights priority countries”. They were parts of the world where ministers were “particularly concerned about human rights issues, and where we consider that the UK can make a real difference”.

But according to analysis from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), that real difference has included selling them everything from bomb components to gun silencers.

In a ministerial statement last year, the FCO shared their assessment on how human rights had improved or deteriorated in countries marked as priority. They told MPs that the human rights situation in Egypt “remains challenging”. Areas of concern included “restrictions on media freedom, prison conditions, and restricted access to justice”.

The FCO says the Egyptian state – ruled by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi – shows “no tolerance for expressions of political opposition".

Despite that, the UK Government has approved licenses for £8.1 million of military goods to Egypt last year.

READ MORE: Faragification of politics continues apace with Patel and her like

They included pistols, machine guns, assault rifles, components for military combat vehicles and components for weapon night sights.

In South Sudan, where there have long been allegations of government forces abusing civilians during the seven-year-long civil war, the FCO says that despite a revitalised peace agreement, “where fighting continues, ‘scorched earth’ tactics are being used, including sexual violence against men, women and children”.

The statement goes on: “Looking beyond the peace process, the increasing dominance of state security organs and weak legal checks undermine all civil and political rights, particularly freedom of expression and media freedom.”

However, the UK Government has okayed licences for nearly £1m worth of military goods, including military support vehicles and body armour.

By far the biggest customer for British arms is Saudi Arabia. Of the £850m worth of UK Government export licenses approved by ministers in London, £638m are for the totalitarian regime.

The FCO says that in Saudi Arabia, “freedom of expression and of the media remain highly restricted” and that the “Saudi judicial system lacks transparency”. They point out that the “use of the death penalty is increasing, with 134 executions to the end of July 2019, compared with 149 during the whole of 2018.” It goes on to say that the “UK takes a leading role on human rights in the Kingdom through advocacy and engagement at ministerial and senior official level, and through project work”.

Items approved for export include components for bombs, components for mortars, small arms ammunition, sniper rifles, air-to-air missiles, assault rifles, combat aircraft and gun silencers. It’s likely the real figure for arms sales is much higher, as CAAT’s figures do not include open licences which allow the export of an unlimited number of consignments over a fixed period, typically between three and five years.

In 2018 it was revealed that the UK had been selling missiles and bombs to the Saudis under the open licence system for five years.

READ MORE: Sunak is the latest minister sent to caper on the deck of HMS UK

Andrew Smith from CAAT told the Sunday National: “The UK Government is always telling us that it stands for human rights and democracy, but it is arming, supporting and strengthening some of the most brutal and abusive regimes in the world. These arms sales include deadly weapons that could be used for years to come. By selling violence around the world, Boris Johnson and his colleagues are making themselves complicit in atrocities and abuses for years to come.”

A Government spokesperson said: “The Government takes its export responsibilities seriously and assesses all export licences in accordance with strict licensing criteria. We will not issue any export licences where to do so would be inconsistent with these criteria.”