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UK illicit Arms: Shocking revelations reinforce need for strong Arms Treaty

As BBC Radio Four’s ‘File on Four’ programme uncovered the murky world of illegal gun-runners on Tuesday (15 Jan), Amnesty International called upon the UK to continue to lead the call for tight controls on the international Arms.

The BBC investigation includes an analysis of the actions of British arms dealer Gary Hyde who was convicted in 2007 for illicit arms deals. Hyde first became known to Amnesty in 2006 when it was alleged that his company York Guns Ltd had privately imported thousands of assault rifles and machine guns from Bosnia to the UK.

Amnesty investigated the activities of Gary Hyde, and last October, he was found guilty on charges of shipping thousands of AK47s and millions of rounds of ammunition from China to Nigeria without a licence. He was sentenced to seven years.

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

“Gary Hyde was able to send huge quantities of weapons to some of the world’s worst human rights black spots, weapons which were used to facilitate horrific violence including unlawful killings, rape and torture, by exploiting massive loopholes over international regulations on the Arms.  

“Hyde’s guilty verdict has shown that hard-fought laws to regulate arms trafficking can now bring arms dealers who try to evade controls, to justice.  But the gaping loopholes that still exist internationally must be closed if we want to stop arms deals like these fuelling terrible atrocities.  It’s staggering that this was possible.”

This March, the world’s governments are to agree the terms of an international Arms Treaty – the first global treaty regulating the international trade and transfer of weapons.

Oliver Sprague added:

“To be effective, this Treaty must have strong and binding rules at its heart that stop anyone supplying or brokering weapons where it is likely that they could facilitate serious human rights violations. In short, it must be bulletproof.”

Notes to the editor

1. BBC Radio ‘File on Four’ was  broadcast at 8pm Tuesday 15 January 2013.  You can listen to it here:

2. In October 2012 Gary Hyde was found guilty for helping to ship tens of thousands of assault rifles and 32 million rounds of ammunition from China to Nigeria without a licence.  Hyde was also found guilty of concealing commission payments.  York Guns Ltd became well-known in the UK after it sold a Browning 9 mm pistol to a UK civilian who then used the weapon to murder 15 school Children's rights and their teacher in the Scottish village in Dunblane in 1996, an event which led to the wholesale reform of British gun licensing laws.

3. Amnesty also raised concerns in 2008 after companies linked to Hyde had sold tens of thousands of guns to Iraq’s former head of military procurement Ziad Cattan without an appropriate arms brokering licence, and after discovering that many of the guns shipped to Iraq disappeared after delivery.

4. The international Arms Treaty will be agreed in March 2013 at the United Nations in New York. 

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