We wont sell to Iran and Syria local military supplier outlines own export controls!

I visited our friends (ahem) at Global Armour, at their plant near Lisburn on Tuesday.

The Northern Ireland company, which used to be called Highmark, was taken over a couple of years ago by the South African company, Global Armour, and now operates under the same name. The Lisburn plant basically produces a variety of body armour, such as bullet-proof vests (generally regarded as a good thing to have in a dangerous situation).  The companys reception space in an anonymous building in an anonymous industrial estate outside the city has some of their product range on display.

The local company also offers a wider range of gear (helmets, batons, shields, etc) to police, military and security customers across Europe, North America and parts of Asia. The South African based Global Armour looks after markets in Africa and the Middle East

The company recently featured as one of the stars of our report into the local arms industry: Northern Ireland: Arming the World. What helped Global Armour stand out from the crowd was their involvement in the trade in electro-shock batons - the torturers tool of choice according to us Amnesty folk; and we ought to know).

The Global Armour boss I met in Lisburn is from South Africa and is now running the NI operation. She was at pains to point out that the NI company had never been involved in the electro-shock trade, although the South African end of the business most certainly has been, there being relatively few restrictions on the arms trade there.

She reckons the company stopped trading in the electro-shock batons about 18 months ago, although funnily enough - they only finally managed to remove the torture tool from their website in September just past, following publication of our report which named and shamed them.

You can still see one of their old webpages here, advertising a range of the shock batons (minus the picture which has now been deleted).

IT error says the Global Armour boss.

One thing for sure is that the company (whether out of Northern Ireland or South Africa) has supplied all sorts of suspect (and less than democratic) customers, from Pakistan to Indonesia to Saudi Arabia, presumably helping those governments to hold the whip hand over their peoples.

According to the Global Armour boss, there are just two countries they definitely wont sell to: Syria and Iran. Fair enough as far as it goes, I suppose, but what about the rest of President Bushs axis of evil? Presumably North Korea (never mind all the other human rights-abusing governments around the world) could become a bona fide Global Armour customer.

We abide by all the export licence requirements, the Global Armour boss tells me. Ive no real doubt that they do. Thats the whole point of Amnestys campaign to get tighter controls on arms exports from this country and internationally.

Profit-oriented companies will, of course, sell their products to whomsoever governments allow them. That is their raison detre - sell stuff, make money. It is the job of government to put in place sensible restrictions to that trade like not allowing arms and security equipment sales to human rights abusing countries.

That's what we want to make happen. Of course, this being Amnesty, you can help.

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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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