UK and other G8 countries must reveal who armed Saddam

The report argues that without harmonised export controls, stricter end-use monitoring and greater transparency in arms dealing, G8 complicity in human rights abuses will only continue.

As the G8 heads of state prepare for their summit in Evian, Amnesty International reveals that their governments, including the UK, are arming and supplying some of the world's worst abusers of human rights.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK Director, said:

'If there is one lesson that the G8 must learn from the Iraq conflict it is that we cannot allow the international community to supply arms to those who commit gross human rights violations. The world's richest nations must not profit from others' misery.'

At least two thirds of all global arms transfers between 1997 and 2001 came from five members of the G8 - the UK, US, Russia, France and Germany. These countries, as well as the other members of the G8, Italy and Canada, all have varying laws requiring that military exports be licensed. Japan officially prohibits military exports. Yet in each case, Amnesty International's report shows how these controls have been ineffective, or bypassed.

The UK has recently sent a British Military Advisory Training Team to Uzbekistan, where Amnesty International continues to document human rights abuses including torture by asphyxiation. The US government has criticised the country's security forces for committing serious human rights abuses. In 2001, states neighbouring Afghanistan with appalling human rights records, such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, were benefiting from a UK government open licence that, according to one detailed study, 'appears to authorise the export of almost anything on the military list, including unlimited quantities of small arms and light weapons, light and heavy artillery, armoured vehicles including main battle tanks, combat aircraft and helicopters, and rocket systems and missiles with a range of less than 300km'.

Amnesty International's report also demonstrates:

  • how arms brokers and traffickers based in the UK and most other G8 countries can arm human rights abusers by simply plying their trade in 'third countries' with weaker controls.
  • how 'commercial confidentiality', has blocked information to legislators, media and the general public about arms export decisions. This hampers parliamentary scrutiny and public accountability of the Arms.

Amnesty International is calling for an international Arms Treaty, to strengthen and harmonise national controls and turn off the flow of arms to human rights abusers.

Background

Amnesty International is opposed to the transfer of military, security and police equipment, technology and expertise that can reasonably be assumed will contribute to human rights violations in the receiving country, and has consistently appealed to the G8 governments to abide by this principle which they have long recognised but never fully implemented.

Almost 10 years ago the USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the UK signed up, along with other participating states of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), to the Principles Governing Conventional Arms Transfers, which committed participating states to 'avoid transfers which would be likely to be used for the violation or suppression of human rights and fundamental freedoms.'

In 1998 France, Germany, Italy and the UK, as members of the European Union (EU), committed themselves to the European Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers. Canada and the USA and other states have declared their support for the Code. Although it leaves the final decision on exports to be made by governments, it says that arms should not be exported to countries where there is a clear risk they might be used for internal repression or where serious violations of human rights have occurred.

The G8 summit will take place at Evian-les-Bains, France on 1-3 June 2003.

View latest press releases