Effective laws to control arms in Ireland. Sept 2007.
Every year, throughout the world, more than half a million people are killed by armed violence – that’s one person every minute. The international arms trade also facilitates torture, extrajudicial executions, attacks on civilians during conflict and other human rights violations. Without strict control, weapons will continue to fuel violent conflict, state repression and crime.
Ireland is a long-standing proponent of non-proliferation of weapons and has expressed its support for a new legally-binding international Arms Trade Treaty. The proposed treaty would establish global standards that could save thousands of lives and hold irresponsible arms dealers accountable for their actions. This must be made meaningful at home too.
Amnesty International has been campaigning since 2001 for Irish legislation to introduce effective controls, transparency and accountability in the export, brokering and licensed production overseas of military and “dual-use “goods. In 2004, we published a report, Claws of the Celtic Tiger, that exposed Ireland's exports of military and “dual-use” goods and services as a substantial industry. It revealed a totally inadequate export control system for arms trading.
The system also lacks transparency and accountability, with an absence of democratic oversight by the Oireachtas. Members of the public cannot find out precisely what arms and “dual-use” goods are being exported from Ireland or for what purposes they are ultimately being used. It is only through the determination of journalists and non-governmental organizations that information comes to light. Hard-won investigation cannot be a substitute for democratic oversight.
In 2006, in light of attacks on civilians in the Israel/Lebanon conflict, the Department of Foreign Affairs made it clear that Irish airports should not be used by aircraft transporting weapons to Israel. Yet, paradoxically, Irish-made components could have simultaneously been making their way into Apache attack helicopters destined for Israel because of loopholes in our export control system.
The absence of controls on arms brokering in Ireland may also have devastating consequences for the human rights of people in other countries. In the newly expanded Europe, there is real concern that unscrupulous arms brokers will find the EU country with the weakest controls to conduct their business.
Amnesty International welcomes the Control of Exports Bill 2007. It is five years since we first called for the Irish Government to move on this legislation. Nonetheless, we are glad the wheels are now beginning to turn. We are concerned, however, that the Bill omits certain crucial requirements for an effective export and brokering control system. The aim of this report is to outline how and why this legislation must be strengthened.