Wednesday, June 22, 2005

[Arms Trade] Groups: G-8 Arms Sales Fueling Poverty

Associated Press Writer

June 22, 2005, 4:34 AM EDT

LONDON -- Arms exports from Group of Eight nations such as Britain and the United States to poor, conflict-ridden countries are fueling poverty and human rights abuses there, Amnesty International and Oxfam said Wednesday.

As foreign ministers from the G-8 industrialized countries prepared to meet in London on Thursday and Friday, Amnesty and Oxfam urged them to end the problem by adopting a proposed international arms trade treaty.

Amnesty and Oxfam said if such a treaty was made international and legally binding it could establish universal standards regarding arms exports and save lives.

"Each year hundreds of thousands of people are killed, tortured, raped and displaced through the misuse of arms," said Amnesty Secretary General Irene Khan.

"How can G-8 commitments to end poverty and injustice be taken seriously if some of the very same governments are undermining peace and stability by deliberately approving arms transfers to repressive regimes, regions of extreme conflict or countries who can ill afford them?" she said in a statement.

The foreign ministers will meet ahead of a summit by the leaders of the G-8 countries -- Britain, the United States, Japan, Russia, Canada, France, Italy and Germany -- on July 6-8 in Scotland.
Amnesty, Oxfam and another human rights group -- the International Action Network on Small Arms -- said their new report shows that G-8 countries are still supplying military equipment, weapons and munitions to destinations such as Sudan, Myanmar (Burma), the Republic of Congo, Colombia and the Philippines, where they contribute to gross violations of human rights.

The human rights groups said their report exposes a series of loopholes and weaknesses in arms export controls that are common across G-8 countries.

The report's claims included:

* United States: Substantial U.S. military aid to states carrying out persistent human rights violations, including Pakistan, Nepal and Israel.

* Britain: From January 2003 to June 2004, Britain licensed arms exports to countries with serious human rights concerns, including Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Israel and Indonesia. Britain also has increasingly used "open licenses" that allow companies to make multiple shipments without adequate scrutiny.

* Canada: Military exports to countries involved in armed conflict or human rights abuse, including light armored vehicles and helicopters to Saudi Arabia and aircraft engines and hand guns to the Philippines.

* France: Exports in the U.N. category of "bombs, grenades, ammunition, mines and other" to countries subject to European Union arms embargoes, such as Myanmar and Sudan.

* Russia: Exports of heavy weaponry, including combat aircraft, to states whose forces have committed abuses such as Ethiopia, Algeria and Uganda.