• Press Release

Massive Arms Bazaar in Abu Dhabi Exposes Flaws in Upcoming Arms Trade Treaty Talks

February 20, 2013

Contact: Sharon Singh, [email protected],

202-675-8579, @AIUSAmedia

(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

tear gas.

“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

more injured.

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.