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Arms exports

German churches call for new law on arms exports

The two main churches in Germany say a new German law on arms exports is needed, especially those to non-EU countries. They highlighted the frequent gap between declared political principles and actual practice.

Germany's Protestant and Catholic churches on Monday criticized the continuing high level of German weapons exports and called for a revision of laws governing the approval of deliveries to other countries.

Martin Dutzmann, chairman of an ecumenical joint committee on development policy called the GKKE, said there had been "an exorbitantly high number of approvals for arms exports" in 2015 and the first half of 2016.

According to the GKKE, the approval granted by the German government for exports worth a total of 12.82 billion euros ($13.6 billion) amounted almost twice as many compared with the year before.

Speaking at a presentation in Berlin of the 20th GKKE report on arms exports, Dutzmann said a new law on arms exports was needed that increased transparency and the powers of the German parliament to restrict such exports.

"For many years, the churches have deplored the continuing contradiction between legal principles, political guidelines and the declared desire to introduce a more restrictive arms export policy, and a practice of approval that is anything but restrictive," he said.

He said a revised law could see the reinforcement of some of the positive trends in the current legislative period, such as a decline in the exports of small arms and increased transparency over export decisions.

Such progress should "not be reliant on the good will of the next government," Dutzmann, a Protestant, said.

'Completely unacceptable' approvals

Dutzmann's Catholic counterpart, Karl Jüsten, criticized the fact that 59 percent of German arms had been delivered to countries outside of the European Union and NATO, or so-called third-party states.

He pointed out that Qatar was the main recipient of German arms in 2015, describing the Gulf state as a country that "supports Islamists worldwide."

Karl Jüsten (picture-alliance/dpa)

Jüsten: Exports to conflict regions must be restricted

Hüsten said such export approvals were "completely unacceptable" in view of Qatar's active involvement, with Saudi Arabia, in the armed conflict in Yemen, "in which international humanitarian law is being trampled under foot."

"Exports to third-party states, and particularly to crisis and conflict regions, should take place ... only in justified individual cases. It is not least for this reason that we call for a new law shifting the burden of justification to those in favor of arms exports," he said.

The GKKE authors singled out the delivery of German weapons to Kurdish peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq as a possibly dangerous precedent.

"The risks of such a policy can turn out to be greater in the long term than was believed in the short term," they said.

On a positive note, the two churches welcomed the fact that the German government was now providing information on arms exports twice a year, rather than every 12 months.