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Is Northern Ireland fuelling genocide in Darfur?

Could Northern Ireland be helping to fuel genocide in Darfur? That's the almost incredible prospect opened up by new revelations from the BBC.

I have previously blogged  about the possibility that Northern Ireland companies could be helping to supply key parts for the Chinese K-8 light attack jet. In turn, it is feared by Amnesty that these jets have been sold on by China to human rights-abusing regimes such as Zimbabwe and Myanmar / Burma.

Last night's excellent Panaroma (iPlayer version here) on BBC1 – previewed yesterday by YuleE – showed how the K-8 has been sold to Sudan as a trainer jet.  This is part of a deal by China to train fighter pilots who fly Chinese A5 Fantan fighter jets in Darfur. A human rights lawyer interviewed by the programme is clear that the K-8 jet deal is in violation of UN arms embargo.

According to the BBC report:

"Darfur's civilians have been hunted not just from the ground, but from the sky. Most civilians who tell stories of aerial attacks talk about Russian made Antanovs and helicopter gunships.

Many also talk about fighter jets being used, but no-one has ever answered the question of which type of fighter jets these are. Kaltam Abakar Mohammed, a mother of seven, watched three of her children being blown to pieces as they were attacked by a fighter jet on 19 February in the town of Beybey in Darfur.

The BBC has established that Chinese Fantan fighter jets were flying on missions out of Nyala airport in south Darfur in February."

Of course, components from Northern Ireland may not be in the Chinese jets sold to Sudan. We simply don't know for sure one way or the other. That's part of the problem. There is a terrible lack of transparency in the arms export business. The two Northern Ireland-based companies did not respond to the two written enquiries we sent each of them during the course of our research for our report into the NI arms and security sector.

The news came on the same day that "Sudan's president has been accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court."

Well, at least the £155million government subsidy also announced yesterday for Northern Ireland / Canadian aerospace company Shorts Bombardier is going into the civil aviation sector. If only we could be so sure that past subsidy from Invest NI hadn't helped fuel conflict, instability and human rights abuses across the globe…

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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