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Control Arms Campaign: New report shows major loopholes in arms export regulations

Control Arms Campaign: New report shows major loopholes in arms export regulations

May 10, 2010

The globalization of the arms industry has opened major loopholes in arms export regulations, allowing sales to human rights abusers and countries under arms embargoes, according to a new report from the Control Arms Campaign, released as the United Nations opens its annual session on arms control.

"Arms without Borders" reveals that Canadian, US and EU companies are among those able to take advantage of inconsistencies in national regulations by selling weapons components and subcontracting arms manufacturing overseas.

The report details how weapons, including attack helicopters and combat trucks, are being assembled from foreign components and manufactured under license in such countries as China, Egypt, India, Israel and Turkey.

The report shows how these and other conventional weapons have ended up in destinations such as Colombia, Sudan and Uzbekistan where they have reportedly been used for the killing and displacement of civilians, highlighting the urgent need for global rules to regulate an increasingly globalized industry.

"Arms companies are global, yet arms regulations are not, and the result is the arming of abusive regimes. Europe and North America are fast becoming the IKEA of the arms industry, supplying parts for human rights abusers to assemble at home, with the morals not included. It is time for an Arms Trade Treaty to close this litany of loopholes," said Jeremy Hobbs, Director of Oxfam International.

Two major loopholes allow companies to legally circumvent arms regulations, including embargoes:

1. You can’t sell it whole, but you can sell it in individual pieces

  • The European Union has an arms embargo against China; the United States and Canada refuse to sell attack helicopters to China. Yet China’s new Z-10 attack helicopter would not fly without weapons parts and technology from a UK/Italian company (AugustaWestland), a Canadian company (Pratt & Whitney Canada), a US company (Lord Corporation) and a Franco-German company (Eurocopter).

2. You can’t sell from here, but you can sell from over there

  • Canada has not authorized the export of combat aircraft to Colombia, where there are reports of aerial bombings of civilians as recent as 2004. Yet the Colombian Air Force is now acquiring Super Tucano aircraft from the Brazilian company Embraer, which are armed with two machine guns and are powered by engines from Pratt & Whitney Canada.
  • China’s Z-10 helicopter (made from Canadian turboshaft engines and other EU and US parts) has been sold to a number of countries, including Sudan, which is under a full EU arms embargo and a partial UN arms embargo. There have been documented cases of helicopters killing civilians in Sudan’s protracted conflicts, though it is not known whether these specific helicopters were used.
  • In May 2005, Uzbek security forces fired on demonstrators, killing hundreds of people. They used military Land Rovers during the massacre, which were made of 70 per cent British parts. The Land Rover parts were sent "flat pack" to Turkey, where they were assembled and made into military vehicles, then supplied to the Uzbek government. The UK has no control over the deal because the vehicles were not assembled and converted into military vehicles in the UK.

"EU arms makers don’t have to sacrifice profits for the sake of principle, instead they can simply subcontract," said Rebecca Peters, Director of the International Action Network on Small Arms. "For example, the Austrian gun company Glock is trying to establish a production plant in Brazil. If that goes ahead, Glock will be able to circumvent the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports by shipping guns from its Brazilian plant."

The report also shows that the technology revolutionizing the arms industry is often the same as that used in the home, and that it is frequently unregulated. For example, the digital signal processors used in the latest DVD players can also be found in target acquisition systems for fighter jet missile systems. This technology is not regulated even when it is sold for use in military planes.

"Arms trade laws are so out of date that the sales of army helmets are more regulated than the components assembled into deadly weapons. What the world needs is an effective international Arms Trade Treaty that will stop the flow of arms to those that commit human rights abuses," said Irene Khan, Director General of Amnesty International.

Canadian quotes:

  • Robert Fox, executive director of Oxfam Canada, said: "The fact that Canadian arms may be feeding slaughter overseas despite our strict export controls, as this report demonstrates, shows why Canada must champion an Arms Trade Treaty at the UN."
  • Pierre Verronneau, executive director of Oxfam Quebec, said: "At least a third of a million people are killed by conventional weapons every year and many more are injured, abused, forcibly displaced and bereaved as a result of armed violence. If trade and production of conventional weapons is increasingly global, then rules to govern them must also be global. We must have an Arms Trade Treaty now."
  • John Siebert, executive director of Project Ploughshares, said: "Canada has the opportunity to champion an Arms Trade Treaty. This report shows the need for comprehensive global controls so that weapons do not end up in countries in conflict or where they will be used against innocent civilians."
  • Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, said: "It is deeply troubling that Canadian-made parts can still end up in military equipment in countries that Canada bars exports to. We need to close those loopholes through a system of global regulation grounded in human rights protection."

For more information, please contact:

  • Mark Fried, Oxfam Canada 613-850-9723
  • John Tackaberry, Amnesty International Canada 613-744-7667, ext. 236
  • Ernie Regehr, Project Ploughshares (519) 888-6541, ext. 712
     
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