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Arms: Tougher controls needed on Northern Ireland arms exports

Northern Irish company cited as European contact for sale of illegal electro-shock batons

Amnesty International today (17 Sept) called for tougher controls on arms exports as it launched the first investigative report into Northern Ireland's role in the global arms and security trade.

The report, entitled 'Northern Ireland: Arming the World', maps the manufacture, trade and transfer of military, security and police equipment and services in Northern Ireland and exposes how Northern-Ireland based companies may be involved in supplying arms to countries with poor human rights records.

According to the report, companies based in Northern Ireland are supplying components for weapons which may be used in attack helicopters and jets which are sent to countries known to have poor human rights records and, in some cases, international arms embargoes including Zimbabwe, Burma (Burma), Pakistan and Colombia.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:
"Northern Ireland is playing an increasingly significant part in the global Arms. It is surely unacceptable to most people in Northern Ireland that controls on the trade are so lax that local companies could be involved in arming governments such as Burma and Zimbabwe, infamous for their atrocious human rights records.”

The report also highlights how the website of Dromara-based company Global Armour Highmark is offering for sale illegal electro-shock batons.

Global Armour Highmark is an offshoot of a South African corporation, and the website gives the Northern Ireland company as its European sales point of contact.

The UK government has outlawed UK companies from being involved in the trade of such torture equipment. As such Amnesty International has therefore passed this information to the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, for further investigation into possible breach of the law.

Patrick Corrigan said:
“It’s baffling that a company based in Dromara can display on its website so openly a piece of torture equipment, particularly when the UK Government has outlawed the selling of this equipment by UK businesses.”

Amnesty International is calling for tighter UK Government controls on the granting of arms export licences, and for the involvement of the Northern Ireland Assembly to ensure that Northern Ireland companies are not involved in fuelling human rights abuses overseas.

Patrick Corrigan continued:
“It seems to be so easy for companies to evade international arms embargoes which are supposed to prevent the arming of these countries.

"It is time for all those with responsibility for controlling this trade, whether in Westminster or Stormont, to take notice and to seriously tighten the legal controls on arms exports."

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