UK: New report reveals Arms out of control as Amnesty members descend on parliament.

Hundreds of Amnesty International members from across the UK are descending on parliament today (10 May) to lobby MPs for tough controls on the Arms, as a new report reveals a network of arms transporters and brokers - including UK-based companies - fuelling the world’s bloodiest conflicts.

The new report, Dead on Time - arms transportation, brokering and the threat to human rights, from Amnesty International and TransArms, reveals the involvement of arms brokers and transporters from the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Balkans, China, Israel, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and the USA. It shows how arms brokers and transporters now deliver hundreds of thousands of tonnes of weapons around the world - with an ever-greater proportion going to developing countries where they have fed some of the most brutal conflicts. Weak and outdated arms controls are failing to stop brokers and transporters from fuelling massive human rights abuse around the world.

The report details a huge shipment last year by a UK-based firm of ammunition and explosives to Saudi Arabia and Mauritius from a Brazilian manufacturer. Brazil had permitted the shipment despite Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record. The massive haul of guns and explosives – including armour-piercing incendiaries and 1.6 million rounds of ammunition - was seized en route by South African authorities because it had no transhipment licence.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“The Arms is out of control and costing hundreds of thousands of lives every year. The UK has a real chance to do something about it when the UN meets in June – and we want MPs to tell the Government that their constituents really care about this issue.

“Arms brokers and transporters have helped deliver the weapons used to kill and rape civilians in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Yet only 35 states have laws to regulate brokers. Countries need to get tough on the dealers and transporters of weapons. And we need an Arms Treaty to bring the whole industry under control, and stop weapons being sold to human rights abusers.”

Amnesty International’s report illustrates the unregulated, secretive and unaccountable nature of many arms transporting and brokering operations with a series of case studies including:

Hundreds of thousands of weapons and millions of rounds of ammunition from Bosnia and Herzegovina's war-time stockpiles exported clandestinely under the auspices of the US Department of Defense; the shipments, supposedly to Iraq, used a chain of private brokers and transport contractors including an air cargo company that had violated a UN arms embargo on Liberia. It remains unclear whether the cargo ever arrived in Iraq.

Cases where the services of private contractors who have been involved in illegal arms shipments have also been employed to support UN peacekeeping missions and deliveries of humanitarian aid at tax-payers' expense.

The sea freighting of large quantities of arms to Liberia from China by a Dutch arms broker in contravention of a UN arms embargo on Liberia and despite evidence of the widespread killing, rape and displacement of thousands of civilians.

Jim Garton, an Amnesty member who had travelled all the way from Rotherham to lobby his MP said:

“It makes me so angry to see these awful conflicts on the news, knowing that the guns are there just because someone’s making a quick profit from it. Sometimes it feels like we’re just picking up the pieces. We’ve got to do something to stop the weapons getting into the wrong hands in the first place.”

In its report, Amnesty International makes a series of specific recommendations for robust and strictly enforced arms controls based on consistent international laws including:

An international Arms Treaty to provide global standards for the Arms; this would form the basis of an international protocol to regulate arms brokering and transport agents;

Immediate establishment of specific national laws, regulations and administrative procedures to prevent arms brokering, logistics and transport activities contributing to gross human rights violations;

Making violations of UN arms embargoes a criminal offence in all states and in the case of serious violations, a crime with universal jurisdiction;

Stepping up international donor aid to enhance customs and other law enforcement control of cargo movements.

Sergio Finardi of TransArms said:

"It is clear that the existing patchwork of regulations are completely failing to keep pace with the expanding number and reach of international brokers, logistic firms and transporters. Such intermediaries may ensure that shipments of arms around the world arrive dead on time, but all too often they are used for the killing, rape, torture and displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.”

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