[Essay] Failure of Arms Control and Human Rights Violations
A while back I wrote a post about Jormungand’s Koko selling arms to countries for world peace, and the Balance of Power rationale behind it. This crappy hastily-written badly planned essay is the flipside to that post, when arms trade contributes to human rights violations and there’s not a damn thing anyone does to stop it. If you don’t know much about the international system, the UN’s most powerful organ is the Security Council, which has 5 permanent members with veto power: The US, UK, France, Russia, and China. Veto power means if the Council tries to pass anything they don’t like they can say SUCK MY BALLS and no one can do anything about it, despite the resolution/sanction/etc having a majority vote. Giving the US, Russia and China veto power is why most of the time the UN never gets any shit done. With that said, enjoy what a wonderful wonderful messed up world we live in!
Many states that are incapable of producing their own weapons rely on the importation of weapons and military hardware from other states for their self defense and to maintain their sovereignty from aggressive nations. However, there are many cases where instead of self defense, the imported arms are used in violation of human rights and humanitarian laws against the citizens of the state. In Sudan, arms imported into the country were transferred to the state’s western region Darfur, where they are used to fight protestors and commit genocide on an ethnic race of civilians. In Bahrain, protesters have been killed or injured by many imported weapons, including riot control weapons from the United States. The death toll in Syria recently rose to over 12,000 in the past 13 months, with most of its arms supplied by Russia (Lynch, 2012a). There isn’t a comprehensive arms control treaty for conventional weapons beyond categories such as landmines, and arms control measures for firearms used in the killing of civilians are decided on a case by case basis. This raises the question, what is the effectiveness of current (or lack of) arms control treaties, sanctions and embargoes on limiting human rights violations?
Helen Hugues, an arms trade researcher for Amnesty International, stated that “Governments that now say they stand in solidarity with people across the Middle East and North Africa are the very same as those who until recently supplied the weapons, bullets and military and police equipment that were used to kill, injure and arbitrarily detain thousands of peaceful protesters in states such as Tunisia and Egypt and are even now being deployed by security forces in Syria and Yemen.” (Amnesty International, 2011a).
In Sudan’s Darfur region, there has been a conflict ongoing for nine years between the Sudanese Government, the government-backed Janjaweed militia, and various opposition forces such as the predominantly-Zaghawan Sudan Liberation Army – Minni Minawi (SLA-M) and Sudan Liberation Army – Justice (SLA-J). The ethnic conflict has resulted in many deaths and displacements, with 70,000 people displaced in the first half of 2011 alone (Amnesty International, 2012b). At least 300,000 people have been killed since the conflict began(Lynch, 2012b). The attacks by the government forces and government-backed militias are often indiscriminate against opposition forces and innocent civilians, and some attacks were deliberately aimed towards displacing civilian populations. Traditional leaders and local government officials in Darfur publicly called for the expulsion of all Zaghawas, regardless of whether they are opposition fighters or civilians. At the end of 2010 4,000 Zaghawa civilians moved to the external perimeter of the African Union/UN Hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID), but were continually harassed by the government-backed militia Popular Defense Forces (PDF) operating alongside the government’s Sudan Armed Forces (SAF). The PDF and SAF routinely conducted aerial bombardments of villages, even if the village consisted entirely of civilians. A displaced Zaghawan civilian described his village being attacked by two SAF fighter aircraft, two helicopters, and one Antonov transport aircraft refitted for bombing missions. The government and the backed militia also raided villages to kill or steal their livestock, and bombed water wells (Amnesty International, 2012b).
The United Nations Security Council has released several resolutions with regards to the situation in Darfur, and placed an arms embargo on the region. In 2004’s Resolution 1556 the Security Council claims “grave concern at the ongoing humanitarian crisis and widespread human rights violations”, condemns “all acts of violence and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by al parties to the crisis… indiscriminate attacks on civilians, rapes, forced displacements, and acts of violence … those with an ethnic dimension” and recalls that “over one million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance” and “up to 200,000 refugees have fled to the neighboring State of Chad”. The situation is considered to “constitute a threat to international peace and security and to stability in the region”. (United Nations Security Council, 2004). With its concerns, the Security Council placed a heavy arms embargo on non government entities operating in the area with paragraphs 7 and 8 of Resolution 1556, stating “7. Decides that all states shall take the necessary measures to prevent the sale or supply, to all non-governmental entities and individuals, including the Janjaweed, operating in the states of North Darfur, South Darfur and West Darfur, by their nationals or from their territories or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and related materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts for the aforementioned, whether or not originating in their territories; 8. Decides that all states shall take the necessary measures to prevent any provision to the non-governmental entities and individuals identified in paragraph 7 operating in the states of North Darfur, South Darfur and West Darfur by their nationals or from their territories of technical training or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of the items listed in paragraph 7 above;” (United Nations Security Council, 2004). These paragraphs place a tight and comprehensive ban on all forms of conventional weapons and training, leaving no legal leeway.
Despite the resolution, the conflict continued. In 2005’s Resolution 1591, the Security Council strongly condemned “the continuation of violence against civilians and sexual violence against women and girls since the adoption of resolution 1574” and deplores all parties that “have failed to comply with their commitments and the demands of the Council”. The Council increased the arms embargo from Resolution 1556’s paragraphs 7 and 8 to “also apply to all the parties to the N’djamena Ceasefire Agreement”, limiting even the Sudanese government from transporting arms into Darfur without approval by the established Committee of the Security Council (United Nations Security Council, 2005). The sale of arms continued, and in 2010 the Security Council “reminds all States, particularly States in the region, of the obligations contained in resolutions 1591 (2005) and 1556 (2004)” and decides that all arms sales towards Sudan are “conditional upon the necessary end user documentation so that States may ascertain” that the arms are not redirected towards Darfur (United Nations Security Council, 2010).
All of the arms embargo restrictions have been continuously violated by some permanent members of the Security Council itself. The UN Panel of Experts on Sudan charged with monitoring the UN arms embargo has been reporting since 2006 – two years after the first embargo resolution – that the weapons found to be used in Darfur were imported from primarily from Belarus, China, and the Russian Federation. Amnesty International states that “China and Russia are selling arms to the Government of Sudan in the full knowledge that many of them are likely to end up being used to commit human rights violations in Darfur” (Amnesty International, 2012a). The ammunitions used in small arms in Darfur were found to have ammunition codes 11, 41, 61, 71, 811, and 945, which are manufacturing codes of Chinese arms companies. The ammunition manufacturing codes showed that they were manufactured after the embargo, and often showed up within a year of being manufactured. In 2010 the UN Panel of Experts found 7.62x54mm ammunition with the codes 41 and 09, indicating that they were manufactured in 2009 in China. In 2011, Chinese ammunition manufactured in 2010 were found in Southern Kordofan. (Amnesty International, 2012b). Amnesty International’s report states that the repeated appearance of these ammunition show that “its ongoing supply to Sudan has been entirely unaffected by the presentation of strongly-documented evidence to the UN SC of its transfer to Darfur” and shows concern for “the exporting countries’ willingness or capacity to implement responsible arms export mechanisms” (Amnesty International, 2012b). In 2011, the government-deployed Central Reserve Police raided a Zam Zam camp of Internally Displaced Persons to loot their property, and injured six people and killed one man. The ammunition used were Chinese and manufactured in 2006 and 2008. Large calibre weapons such as the QLZ87 35mm grenades and grenade launchers were captured from the SAF in 2011, and contained markings that indicated they were manufactured by a Chinese company under a contract from 2008 (Amnesty International, 2012b).
The SAF regularly uses Sukhoi-25 Frogfoot, Mi-24 Hind and converted Antonov transport aircraft to conduct aerial attacks on both military and civilian targets in Darfur. 36 Mi-24s were delivered by the Russian Federation between 2007 and 2009. Although it hasn’t been verified which of the helicopters were transported to Darfur, they compensate for the loss of Mi-24s used in 2011 operations. Amnesty International claims that the continued replacements of the Hinds allows the aerial attacks to continue, and stated that a photograph taken in St Petersburg airport in May 2011 shows a new Mi-24 painted in SAF markings, ready to be exported (Amnesty International 2012). The UN Panel of Experts had reported that a Russian company provides maintenance for Sudan’s Mi-17 and Mi-24 attack helicopters, and that Sudanese military personnel were trained in Russia at Torzhok’s Combat and Conversion Training centre (Amnesty 2012). Maintenance and training for military hardware had been explicitly prohibited in paragraph 8 of the Security Council’s Resolution 1556 from 2004. 15 Su-25 attack aircraft were supplied by Belarus between 2008 and 2010, and at least ten of them were sighted in Dafur by UN and other observers. The Su-25s and Mi-24s operated in Dafur have been sighted and photographed carrying rocket pods for firing S5 57mm and S8 80mm air-to-ground rockets, which are manufactured in former Soviet Union countries. These rockets were found left over in the aftermath of aerial attacks in Southern Kordofan and Firga in 2011. Amnesty International states that neither Russia nor Belarus acknowledge that they have violated the arms embargo, despite public evidence that the aircraft were rapidly transferred to Darfur. Amnesty International said that the continued supply shows “the inadequacy of current international controls on arms transfers, and the complete ineffectiveness of the embargo on Darfur established by the United Nations” (Amnesty International, 2012b).
The SAF and the PDF have been documented to use BTR-80A armored vehicles and 107mm multiple rocket launchers in their Darfur operations. The last publicly reported export of BTR-80s were from Belarus in 2004, though Sudan has continued to import armored vehicles from Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. National reports to the UN Register of Conventional Armaments show that Belarus exported seven BTR-80s and one BMP-1 in 2004 and two BTR-70s in 2007. Ukraine exported two BTR-3s in 2010. Russia exported 15 armored vehicles in 2009 and 45 in 2010, though their precise type are unknown (Amnesty International, 2012b).
In addition to being completely ineffective in stopping the violations, bodies of the UN itself violate sanctions and provide conflicting, potentially-corrupted reports. A report by former UN Panel of Experts members Claudio Gramizzi of Italy, Michael Lewis of Britain, and Jerome Tubiana of France resigned over disputes and lack of faith in the Panel’s coordinator and released their own report that conflicts with the Panel’s report. In their report, the former members stated that the rebel field commander Jibril Abdul Kareem, nicknamed”Tek”, was under a travel ban from the Security Council Resolutions but was given a travel document by the United Nations-African Union Joint Mediation Support Team(JMST) to travel to Qatar for peace talks. However, travel ban exemptions could only be given by the Security Council’s committee on sanctions, which did not receive a request for such an exemption. The former members stated that “Should access to Darfur, and more generally cooperation from member states, United Nations and African Union bodies working in or on Darfur, as well as the general ability of the panel to provide accurate justifications for individual sanctions and monitor them, not increase in the future, the very existence of both the panel and the sanctions mechanism should be seriously reconsidered.” The mere creation of this shadow report by former members highlights serious flaws in the UN’s treatment of the situation and the waning of interest in the region (Lynch, 2012b). The Tabarat Massacre was reported by Reuters to result in 39 deaths and 50 people injured, but was not mentioned in the official Panel report. The Panel decided not to investigate, and may be a sign of a conspiracy with UNAMID, which has a base nearby in the area but chose not to investigate the massacre. The shadow report describes many of the same aircraft sightings and attacks as Amnesty International and describes the ethnic cleansing of the Zaghawa tribe, but the official report gives only a few weak conclusions of embargo violations and doesn’t confirm deliberate targeting of Zaghawas. The official report states that “there has been a clear and relatively positive change compared to the [security] situation in the previous years” whilst the shadow report states that the situation is rapidly worsening (Reeves, 2012).
With the ineffective and possibly corrupted new Panel of Experts providing false accounts and the flow of arms completely unaffected by embargoes, the UN’s arms control measures in Sudan utterly fail to stop the human rights and humanitarian violations in Darfur.
In Bahrain, weapons that have been imported from many European countries and the United States were used on protestors of the 2011 Pearl Roundabout Protests. On February 14 2011, thousands of protesters gathered across the state to walk to the Pearl Roundabout in the capital and demand greater freedom, social justice and political reforms. Security forces quickly resorted to overwhelming force, and killed seven protestors and injured hundreds of others within a week. Live ammunition, tear gas, batons, shotguns and rubber bullets were used at close range to break up the protesters, and medical workers who were treating wounded people were also targeted and wounded by the security forces. At least 34, including at least two policemen, lost their lives as a result of the protests and hundreds were arrested. Arrested protesters were ill-treated or tortured during their interrogation, and four people died in custody. Many were tried in courts that didn’t meet the international standards for fair trials, and over 2,500 people were suspended from their jobs because of their participation or support of the protests (Amnesty International, 2011b). The arms imported into Bahrain from 2005 to 2009 were categorized as Military Weapons from the United States valued at $1,549,864, and non-military firearms from France ($532,783), Germany ($222,000), and the UK ($117,438). Cartridges for shotguns were imported from the UK valued at 280,284, and tanks and other Armored Fighting Vehicles were imported from the United States at $5,296,285 (Amnesty International, 2011b). Some of the ammunition collected after a February 17 raid of Pearl Roundabout showed US-made tear gas canisters and 37mm rubber multi-baton rounds, and French tear gas grenades and rubber dispersion grenades (Amnesty International 2011b). Because of a lack of a proper arms trade treaty to prevent sales of arms to states known to repeatedly use excessive force on their citizens, Bahrain was able to import a lot of weapons. Although France, the UK, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands have revoked licenses or canceled shipments of arms to Bahrain in the aftermath of the protests and Amnesty International’s request for governments to cease all sales, the United States continues to sell arms and proposed the first foreign military sale since the Bahrain government cracked down on protesters. This shows that goodwill alone will not be enough to prevent the sales of arms to countries that violate the rights of their citizens (Amnesty International, 2011b).
Syria was ruled for almost five decades under a state of emergency, which was lifted in 2011. However, the use of extreme force worsens, and within a week of March 18 2011’s largely peaceful demonstration, security forces killed at least 55 protesters. Tanks and artillery were used to fire rounds and shells indiscriminately into civilian areas, and snipers were used to target people that try to help the wounded on the streets (Amnesty International, 2011b). A recent massacre in Houla resulted in at least 108 civilian deaths, a third of which were children. The United Nations Security Council condemns Syria in response, but takes no further action. The Council’s effectiveness is eroded by Russia, whose envoy said it was “difficult to imagine” the Syrian government behind the massacre and claims that both sides had a hand in the killings (Lynch, 2011a). Although records of Syrian arms imports aren’t made public, Amnesty International claims that Russian exports to Syria account for up to 10 percent of all Russian arms exports, and Russia supplies Syria with missiles and missile launchers, anti-tank missiles for the T72 tank, and MiG fighter aircraft. The General Director of Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-owned arms manufacturer, was quoted as saying “As long as no sanctions have been declared yet and as long as there have been no instructions and directives from the government, we are obliged to comply with our contractual obligations”. The Russian government is unlikely to allow an arms embargo to pass, as it is estimated that Russia may loose US$4 billion if an embargo is placed on Syria (Amnesty 2011b). In addition to Russian exports, between 2005 and 2009 Egypt supplied $618,685 worth of military weapons and $296,785 non-military firearms. France supplied $1,254,580 worth of munitions, and India supplied $1,132,320 worth of tanks and other armored fighting vehicles. These sales were despite the fact that Syria has a long history of extreme force on its civilians (Amnesty 2011b).
Because of a lack of a proper arms embargo on Syria, as recently as last weekend on May 26th 2012 the Russian cargo ship Professor Katsman turned off its transponders to dock in Syria with what is reportedly a large shipment of heavy weapons. Russia defends its sales by claiming that the Syrian forces need weapons against the opposition that receive arms from other countries, and also claims that their weapons sales do not violate any international law. However, the reason there isn’t any international law is because Russia and China, themselves permanent members of the Security Council and large arms exporters, have veto power against any embargo that the Security Council may place on Syria (Charbonneau, 2012).
From these cases, it is clear that with major arms exporters as permanent members of the Security Council the likelihood of a proper arms trade treaty or even case specific embargoes being passed is extremely unlikely. Even in cases like Sudan where embargoes have been placed, they have practically no effect on arms trade and human rights and humanitarian law violations repeatedly occur from the imported arms.
- Amnesty International. 2011a “Arms trade to Middle East and North Africa shows failure of export controls.” October 19 http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/report/arms-trade-middle-east-and-north-africa-shows-failure-export-controls-2011-1
- Amnesty International. 2011b “Arms Transfers to the Middle East and North Africa.” http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ACT30/117/2011/en/049fdeee-66fe-4b13-a90e-6d7773d6a546/act301172011en.pdf
- Amnesty International. 2012a “Darfur: New weapons from China and Russia fuelling conflict.” February 8 http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/darfur-new-weapons-china-and-russia-fuelling-conflict-2012-02-08
- Amnesty International. 2012b. “Sudan: No End To Violence in Darfur” http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AFR54/007/2012/en/c1037da2-0f54-4343-8325-461d80e751c2/afr540072012en.pdf“
- Charbonneau, Louis. 2012. “U.S. condemns reported Russian arms shipment to Syria”. May 31. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-05-31/news/sns-rt-us-syria-arms-russiabre84u0wy-20120531_1_professor-katsman-russian-arms-shipment-russian-cargo-ship
- Lynch, Colum. 2012a. “Security Council condemns Syrian massacre, won’t punish” May 29. http://turtlebay.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/05/29/security_council_condemns_syrian_massacre_wont_punish
- Lynch, Colum. 2012b “What’s the point of U.N. sanctions in Darfur when even the U.N. flouts them?” April 30. http://turtlebay.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/04/30/whats_the_point_of_un_sanctions_in_darfur
- Reeves, Eric. 2012 “Former Members of the UN Panel of Experts for Darfur Offer a Damning Alternative to the “Official” Report” April 30. http://www.sudanreeves.org/2012/04/17/former-members-of-the-un-panel-of-experts-for-darfur-offer-a-damning-alternative-to-the-official-report/
- United Nations Security Council. 2004. Resolution 1556
- United Nations Security Council. 2005. Resolution 1591
- United Nations Security Council. 2010. Resolution 1945
Posted on June 2, 2012, in Essays and tagged Amnesty International, Darfur, Russia, Security Council, Sudan, United Nations Security Council, United State, War in Darfur. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a Comment.