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Arms: BBC's findings reinforce Amnesty's concerns over China's violation of darfur arms embargo

Amnesty International revealed in 2007 that arms were still being transferred to Darfur in spite of UN embargo

The revelation in tonight’s BBC’s current affairs programme Panorama that China is currently aiding the Sudanese government in its military operations in Darfur has reinforced Amnesty International’s long-held concerns that countries including China and Russia may be in breach of the UN arms embargo to Darfur.

Panorama’s investigation team traced Chinese army lorries in the Sudanese province that came from a batch exported from China to Sudan in 2005. They found a Chinese Dong Feng army lorry in the hands of one of Darfur’s rebel groups, which eyewitnesses say, was captured from Sudanese government forces in December.

In 2006 Amnesty International warned that the transfer of Dong Feng trucks into Sudan could be used to fuel human rights atrocities in the Darfur region.

Panorama’s findings correlate with Amnesty International’s findings in 2007, which revealed that arms, ammunition and related equipment were still being transferred to Darfur. Amnesty International traced attack helicopters from Russia, ground attack fighter jets from China and Antonov planes that had been painted white to disguise their military nature.

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

“The UN arms embargo was established across Darfur in March 2005, and for good reason. The proliferation of military vehicles, aircraft and small arms in the region has had devastating consequences for the people living there.

“In spite of the UN arms embargo, it is clear that weapons are still making their way into this conflict-ravaged zone. Given the clear risk that military equipment sent to Sudan is likely to be used in Darfur, states need to uphold their international obligations and stop sending these supplies immediately.

“In addition, the UN Security Council must make every effort to ensure that the arms embargo on Darfur is fully and effectively enforced, and that peacekeepers are mandated to disarm or demobilise government-backed Janjawid militia and Darfuri armed opposition groups.”

Next week UN government experts will to finalise the detail for the proposed international Arms Treaty (ATT).

Oliver Sprague continued:

“The situation in Darfur demonstrates that current international arms controls are woefully inadequate and highlights why an Arms Treaty is so desperately needed.

“The ATT would close existing loopholes and would be legally binding on all governments to ensure that they do not fuel human rights atrocities by transferring weapons to regions where such abuses are occurring.”

Today’s BBC revelation coincides with the announcement by the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor that he is seeking an arrest warrant against Sudanese President al-Bashir.

Amnesty International considers this to be an important step towards ensuring accountability for human rights violations and has repeatedly called for accountability for all parties in the conflict in Darfur.

The organisation also called on the Government of Sudan to ensure that the moves by the ICC do not have an adverse effect on the deployment of the Unamid peacekeepers or on access of humanitarian organisations.

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