Arms trade to Mideast shows export control failure: Amnesty

19th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

The US, Russia and European countries supplied weapons to Middle East and North African governments before the Arab Spring despite having evidence they could be used against protesters, Amnesty said.

The London-based rights group said the "loopholes" in arms export restrictions showed the need for a comprehensive treaty.

The findings were included in a report entitled "Arms Transfers To The Middle East And North Africa: Lessons For An Effective Arms Trade Treaty" which examines arms transfers to Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen since 2005.

"These findings highlight the stark failure of existing arms export controls, with all their loopholes, and underline the need for an effective global arms trade treaty that takes full account of the need to uphold human rights," said Amnesty International researcher Helen Hughes.

The main weapons suppliers to the five countries included in the report were Austria, Belgium, Britain, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and the United States.

Amnesty added: "Governments that now say they stand in solidarity with people across the Middle East and North Africa are the very same as those who until recently supplied the weapons, bullets and military and police equipment that were used to kill, injure and arbitrarily detain thousands of peaceful protesters in states such as Tunisia and Egypt."

Such weapons are still being used by security forces in Syria and Yemen, it added.

At least 11 states, including Britain, Germany and the United States, have provided military assistance or allowed exports of weaponry, munitions and related equipment to Yemen, the report says.

It also identified 10 states whose governments licensed the supply of weaponry, munitions and related equipment to Moamer Kadhafi's Libyan regime since 2005, including Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain and Britain.

Amnesty said that while the international community has taken steps this year to restrict international arms transfers to Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen, it was too late.

"Arms embargos are usually a case of 'too little too late' when faced with human rights crises," said Hughes.

"What the world needs is rigorous case-by-case evaluation of each proposed arms transfer so that if there is a substantial risk that the arms are likely to be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations, then the government must show the red stop light."

The report will be presented at the United Nations in New York on Thursday.

The US State Department said in a letter made public Tuesday it would weigh the results of a probe into Bahrain's crackdown on protests before pursuing a planned arms sale to the kingdom.

© 2011 AFP

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