UK: New report says Blair 'weak on guns' and demands tough arms export controls

UK gunrunners will continue to supply arms to conflict zones unless regulations are urgently tightened, say the organisations in a joint report to the Government today (30 April) with other members of the UK Working Group on Arms. The hypocrisy is highlighted by the UK gun amnesty and Government's consultation on the secondary legislation of the Arms Export Control Act coming to a close on the same day.

Mick North, Oxfam and Amnesty International today jointly call on Patricia Hewitt to honour the Government's election manifesto commitment to control UK arms brokers and traffickers 'wherever they are located'. Together they urge the Government to close loopholes in the proposed regulations that will allow brokers to avoid most controls simply by stepping out of the UK to conduct their deals. They also call for arms transporters to be covered by the new regulations.

Mick North said:

'While we are desperately trying to get guns off UK streets, the government refuses to stop British citizens proactively selling guns to conflict ridden countries. The hypocrisy is breathtaking. An innocent life lost to a bullet is equally tragic wherever the trigger is pulled. It's time for the government to live up to its promises.

'I applaud David Blunkett's drive to tackle guns but others in government must learn from his stance. Unless it tightens up its arms export laws, a number of misguided individuals, the brokers and transporters who ship guns to deadly conflict zones, will continue to spread fear and violence in communities across the world by fuelling the deadly trade in unregulated guns.'

Adrian Lovett, Oxfam's Director of Campaigns, said,

'It's simply hypocritical to be working so hard to mop-up guns and get them off British streets, while refusing to clamp down on arms dealers flooding other country's streets with weapons. We can't have one standard for protecting ourselves and another for foreign countries. The government must end the double standards and close these dangerous loopholes.'

Amnesty International UK Director, Kate Allen said:

''We must stop UK arms brokers and transporters selling the weapons that are used to repress, persecute and massacre around the world. The world's worst war zones are being supplied with arms by UK arms brokers and transporters, who profit out of the suffering they fuel. Unless arms export controls apply to UK citizens when they are outside the country, they will simply be bypassed'

'Extra-territorial' controls would regulate UK brokers wherever in the world they sign the deal. There are already 'extra-territorial' controls in UK law for crimes such as paedophilia, terrorism and corruption. Other European countries introducing controls, such as Finland and Poland, are making them fully extra-territorial. The USA already has a fully functional extra-territorial system.

Background

  • In their 2001 manifesto, the Labour Party promised to curb the activities of arms brokers and traffickers 'wherever they are located'. The Government has since announced that it does not intend to introduce controls on UK arms brokers operating outside the UK (except in the few cases where countries are subject to legally binding arms embargoes or where the brokers are dealing in weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles or torture equipment).
  • Today (30 April) marks the end of the UK gun amnesty and the close of the consultation period on the secondary legislation of the arms Export Control Act.
  • The last national gun amnesty followed the Dunblane massacre.
  • Half a million people are killed by firearms each year.
  • Britain remains one of the world's biggest exporters of weapons.

Further information about our campaign for tougher arms controls is available online.

Editors notes

  • Mick North will be available for interview. His five-year-old daughter Sophie was killed in the Dunblane massacre, 13 March 1996.
  • Mick North has visited Uganda to see the effects of guns overseas. Footage of this visit is available.

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