Contact: Sharon Singh, [email protected],
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The United States, China, European Union states, and other
arms-exporting countries must ensure that any deals brokered at an international arms
fair in Abu Dhabi this week do not result in weapons reaching countries where they could
contribute to serious human rights abuses, said Amnesty International.
The International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX), held every two years in
the United Arab Emirates capital, bills itself as one of the biggest arms bazaars in the
world. This week’s IDEX concludes on February 21, less than a month before states
convene at the United Nations in New York to finalize a historic Arms Trade Treaty where
the U.S., China, and other states are hoping to get weaker treaty controls.
Amnesty International has repeatedly highlighted how the poorly regulated global arms
trade contributes to war crimes and other serious human rights violations around the
world and since the 1990s has highlighted the problem of unregulated arms brokering.
“The wide array of conventional weapons being displayed at IDEX this week stands in
sharp contrast to the narrow scope of items proposed by the United States, China, and
other states for the draft Arms Trade Treaty,” said Brian Wood, Amnesty International’s
head of arms control and human rights. “And if their proposed human rights rules and
brokering controls in the treaty remain weak, companies will continue to garner hundreds
of millions of dollars’ worth of weapons deals for unscrupulous buyers.”
Among the more than 1,100 companies from almost 60 countries exhibiting this week at
IDEX, Amnesty International has been able to identify a number of manufacturers from key
arms-exporting countries whose products have previously been used in areas where serious
human rights abuses have taken place.
On display this week are a wide range of “less lethal” weapons – including chemical
irritants like tear gas and crowd-control equipment such as rubber bullets and water
cannons. Among the manufacturers exhibiting such weapons are two companies from the
United States and France whose tear gas has been used in Bahrain. Another U.S. firm has
supplied similar weapons to Egypt. In both countries, protesters have died or been
severely injured during 2011 and 2012 as a result of security forces allegedly misusing
“Governments are letting the unrelenting commercial pressures of arms companies and
their own narrow national interests take precedence over building the rule of law and
respect for human rights,” said Wood. “These are prime examples of why the world
desperately needs a strong Arms Trade Treaty that would halt an arms sale when it can be
foreseen that there is a substantial risk the arms will be used for serious human rights
State-owned arms manufacturers from China exhibiting at IDEX have heavy weaponry,
such as artillery systems, on display. Pakistani companies are advertising a range of
munitions including small arms ammunition, mortars, artillery shells, and bombs.
Both nations have supplied a wide range of arms to Sri Lanka, which emerged from a
bitter, three-decade armed conflict in 2009. During the final years of the conflict,
from 2000-2009, Amnesty International identified China as one of the biggest arms
suppliers to the Sri Lankan armed forces. Sri Lanka’s government and the armed
separatist group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), both committed serious human
rights violations and abuses, and tens of thousands of civilians were killed, with many
The Chinese companies also manufacture a wide array of small arms and ammunition,
including cartridges that have been used by an armed group in eastern Democratic
Republic of the Congo (DRC). U.N. peacekeeping forces in Goma in eastern DRC have
collected cartridge casings with Chinese markings. These were manufactured in 2007 and
subsequently used by an armed group in DRC. Amnesty International identified the
markings as belonging to a specific Chinese manufacturer.
The rights group also concluded that Chinese cartridges were among those found at
Bushani, DRC, where government soldiers committed rape, torture, and other sexual
Police and security forces have deployed such weapons across the Middle East and
North Africa to repress the massive popular uprisings that have taken place in the
region since early 2011. While these weapons can have a legitimate use in law
enforcement, they can be lethal and Amnesty International has repeatedly condemned
security forces using them to violate human rights, including the excessive and
unnecessary use of force to disperse such protests.
One exhibitor from South Korea is also promoting cluster munitions at IDEX – an
inherently inhumane weapon. So far 111 states have signed, ratified, or acceded to a
separate international treaty banning these weapons.
In recent conflicts, Russian and Spanish-made cluster munitions were photographed in
2011 in Libya. Amnesty International found that al-Gaddafi forces used the weapons in
residential areas and that Syrian government forces also used cluster bombs in 2012.
“It is unconscionable that internationally banned weapons like cluster bombs that
blow the legs off children long after conflicts end are still being peddled at a major
international trade fair,” said Wood.
Amnesty International calls on companies that manufacture or supply such
indiscriminate weapons to immediately cease production and take them off the market and
appeals to all states to join the international Convention on Cluster Munitions which
bans their use, production transfer, and stockpiling.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist
organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than
150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and
exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever
justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.