EUROPEAN UNION: NGOs call on EU Governments to clamp down on arms brokers

As a major new report, The Arms Fixers, released this week shows, EU-based arms brokering and shipping agents have transferred significant quantities of arms, mostly small arms and light weapons, to regions of conflict and human rights crisis zones. These agents bypass EU arms export controls by arranging arms transfers directly from third countries into regions in conflict, or to destinations where systematic human rights violations are taking place, such as Congo-Brazzaville, Eritrea, Rwanda and Sierra Leone .

Most EU Governments do not regulate the involvement of their nationals or residents in the brokering and trafficking of arms, when the arms transfers take place from outside the EU. In the first half of 1999, the German Government tabled proposals for common controls on arms brokering agents to be adopted by EU Member States. Since then however, progress has been virtually non-existent.

Much more limited proposals to control UK arms brokers were set out in the UK Government's July 1998 White Paper on Strategic Export Controls. But despite the 'arms to Africa' affair, which last year exposed the failure of UK controls in this area, action to clamp down on gun-runners does not appear to be a priority for this Government.

The UK Working Group calls on all EU Member States to expedite the introduction of a licensing system for arms brokering agents, as an essential adjunct to the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports agreed in June 1998. This should include:

* Requiring all EU arms brokering and trafficking agents to register with their national Governments, so that agents who break laws regulating arms exports can be prosecuted and banned from any further arms brokering.

* Establishing restrictions on the buying, selling, promotion, advertising and marketing of all military and security goods and services, which apply to any EU passport holder, wherever located, any foreign national resident in the EU and companies which are incorporated or registered in the EU.

* Establishing a prohibition on the brokering of equipment whose sole practical use results in serious violations of humanitarian or international human rights law, including anti-personnel mines, death penalty equipment, leg irons and electro-shock belts.

The UK Working Group on Arms is:

Saferworld

International Alert

BASIC

Amnesty International

OXFAM

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