EU: Arms - Amnesty International warns EU whitewash will mean more guns on UK streets and in conflict zones

The report reveals that German authorities place no restrictions on exports of the ME38 Magnum, an airgun easily converted to fire live .22 rounds. UK police state that more than 75 per cent of all working weapons seized in London in 2002 were air pistols altered to use bullets, with the ME38 being the model most often recovered.

The EU has this year promised a complete review of its Code of Conduct on Arms Exports and a meeting today of the EU arms control committee COARM is the latest part of that process.

Amnesty International is concerned that a forthcoming review will not be wide or deep enough to address very serious flaws. No decision has been made about wider consultation beyond the government officials and ministers of the EU Member States and there is concern that a “whitewash” will allow loopholes to continue, allowing gunrunners to continue to export weapons to conflict zones and to human rights abusers.

EU arms, security equipment and services are contributing to grave human rights abuses and the scale of potential abuse is now enormous. The major EU arms exporting countries - France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom - account for one third of the world's arms deals. With ten new Member States, the EU now has over 400 small arms companies in 23 countries, almost as many as the USA.

In a report released today - Undermining Global Security: the European Union's arms exports -Amnesty International highlights serious flaws in the European Union's key arms control agreements, especially the 1998 EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports.

The report calls for a toughening and widening of the EU Code to prevent the irresponsible export of surplus arms, arms components and security equipment used for repression. It highlights the insufficient regulation of arms brokers and transporters and weak controls on licensed arms production in third countries.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“EU expansion means that more arms than ever are pouring out of the EU. Yet weak controls mean they are getting into the hands of those who torture and kill civilians.

“The enlarged EU now has an opportunity to push for tougher controls and positive change worldwide. Yet in order to do this it must put its own house in order.”

The report identifies major weaknesses, omissions and loopholes in the existing EU arms export controls, including:

  • UK exports of components for Chinese military aero engines despite an EU arms embargo on China
  • A failure to control the huge “transit trade” of arms through the Netherlands allowing the export of armoured vehicles to Israel despite their use against civilians
  • The involvement of an Italian joint venture company in the manufacture of vehicles used as mobile execution chambers in China
  • The transfer of Czech and Polish surplus weapons to governments such as Yemen with a history of diverting weapons to third countries
  • Surplus tanks, artillery systems and combat planes from Slovakia were sold on to the Angolan armed forces while they committed serious human rights violations during the civil war
  • The supply by a German technology company of surveillance equipment to Turkmenistan despite a history of the government there using such methods for political repression
  • French helicopters and parts manufactured under licence in India, delivered to Nepal where armed forces have used helicopters to shoot and kill civilians.

The organisation is also calling for the European Union to promote a legally binding global Arms treaty to underpin a strengthened EU Code.

The report is available online at: www.amnesty.org .

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