Amnesty reveals evidence of military equipment from UK-owned subsidiary company used in brutal Guinea

The organisation calls for freeze on transfers to Guinea of weapons used for human rights violations as UN meets to debate crucial new Arms Treaty and EU meet to discuss arms embargo

Amnesty International has today called for a freeze on all international transfers to Guinea of weapons, munitions and policing equipment which could be used in serious human rights violations, in light of the recent violations carried out by Guinean security forces in brutal attacks against demonstrators in late September, and a decade-long string of similar attacks.

The call comes as Amnesty International releases information that military equipment supplied by a company currently owned by UK defence giant BAE Systems was used in last month's attacks. Amnesty International has scrutinised video footage and photographic evidence which show the use of armoured personnel carriers by Guinea’s security force during the brutal attacks in Conakry late last month [September]. These attacks have been strongly condemned by the UN Security Council and the African Union.

Photographs captured by the media on 1 October reveal Guinean security officers patrolling Conakry in a Mamba armoured personnel carrier (APC).

Ten Mamba APCs were sold to Guinea in 2003 by a company based in South Africa, Alvis OMC, then a subsidiary of UK company Alvis and now a subsidiary of UK-based BAE Systems. An Alvis OMC spokesperson stated at that time that these vehicles would be used for “border control” in Guinea.

Video footage also shows security forces arriving in these vehicles to suppress a demonstration there on 28 September. Further footage of a subsequent funeral for victims of these attacks also shows these vehicles arriving with security forces who then fired tear gas at people gathered at Conakry’s main mosque.

Amnesty International UK’s Arms Programme Director Oliver Sprague said:

“The transfer of such supplies should stop until the Guinean government has taken steps to prevent these violations from recurring, and has brought to justice those responsible for the recent brutal attacks. The EU should immediately freeze all arms transfers to Guinea and BAE Systems must ensure that its companies do not supply any spare parts, repairs or follow on equipment to Guinea’s security forces”

In a previous report, Amnesty International documented the use of Mamba vehicles in Conakry in January 2007 to drive into crowds of peaceful demonstrators while firing at them.

The latest government review of UK arms export controls, rejected calls from Amnesty International and other organisations for UK owned subsidiary companies operating overseas to be regulated by UK arms export controls. The UK parliamentary select committee on arms export controls have also called for greater controls on overseas subsidiaries of UK arms companies.

Details of the misuse of these vehicles and other military equipment have been revealed during crucial talks at the UN General Assembly for a robust international Arms Treaty which would stop irresponsible arms transfers.

Oliver Sprague continued:

“An Arms Treaty that does not prevent international arms supplies to those with a persistent record of grave human rights violations like Guinea's security forces will be a worthless gesture. At the UN this week, the UK and its allies are proposing new procedural rules for the Treaty's negotiations that could severely restrict progress towards a treaty that can protect rights, lives and livelihoods.

“We have serious concerns that this Treaty could be watered down during these talks. Events like these in Guinea show that we simply cannot afford to let this happen.”

Amnesty International is calling on this month's UN General Assembly to begin formal negotiations for an international Arms Treaty which ensures that human rights is integral.

NOTES TO EDITORS

Video footage can be viewed here: http://videos.tf1.fr/sept-a-huit/l-emission-du-11-octobre-2009-4840603… : - At 20.30 minutes: a Mamba is seen patrolling the stadium. At 26.00 minutes, the footage again shows security forces on what looks like a Mamba around the Mosque where tear gas were launched.

The photograph can be viewed via Corbis website: http://pro.corbis.com/Enlargement/Enlargement.aspx?id=42-23458196&cat=1…

On Saturday (17 October) the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) imposed an arms embargo on Guinea under its (ECOWAS) Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons.

Amnesty International has also received information from the French government in the last two weeks indicating that it has authorised the supply of tear gas and other anti-riot grenades to Guinean security forces in recent years, despite Guinean security forces having used these kinds of munitions in persistent serious human rights violations since 1998.

France, Portugal and Spain have reported to the UN 'COMTRADE' Customs database that between 2006 and 2008 they made over $5 million of exports to Guinea in commodity categories covering ammunition and cartridges. It is difficult, however, to verify this data or to determine from this data alone what kinds of ammunition have been exported, and to which end-users (either private or governmental). France has insisted that it has not authorised the supply of 'lethal' ammunition to Guinea since 2004.

The current Arms Treaty resolution tabled on Thursday 15 October by the UK and six other countries mandates the start of formal negotiations for an ATT to be concluded by 2012. Amnesty International welcomes this progress. However the resolution also requires that the final negotiating conference in 2012 must take decisions on the basis of consensus: a procedure which could allow any single country to block any decisions during negotiations. Consensus based decision making will risk creating an ATT which is weak, and fails to reflect the view of an overwhelming majority of countries that demand a strong and effective treaty.

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