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Risky business

October 19, 2011

The Arab Spring uprisings have seen regimes in the Middle East and North Africa turn weapons against their own people. According to a report by Amnesty International, Germany is among the countries at blame.

A soldier holds a German weapon
The Bundeswehr aren't the only ones carrying German weaponsImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Germany, along with the United States, Russia and other European countries, sold weapons to volatile regimes in the Middle East and North Africa in past years, according to an Amnesty International report released Wednesday.

The report said the countries ignored human rights abuses in selling weapons to regimes that have since turned on their own people during the Arab Spring popular uprisings.

'Money over rights'

"It's money and short-sightedness ahead of the rule of law and respect for human rights," said Brian Wood, manager of arms control at Amnesty.

The London-based group's report examines arms transfers to Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen since 2005.

Alongside Germany, the countries of Austria, Belgium, Britain, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States were identified as suppliers to the five countries, which have all seen violent clashes this year between anti-regime demonstrators and government security forces.

"The Arab Spring is the reaction by people whose rights have been stripped away by the coercive force of governments and their security forces using the tools supplied from Europe, North America, Russia and elsewhere," said Wood.

US deal

Amnesty is currently urging US lawmakers to block a proposed $53 million (38-million-euro) US arms sale to Bahrain, where more than 30 people have been killed as the ruling monarchy has waged crackdowns against anti-government protesters.

"It's precisely the wrong signal for the Obama administration to be on the verge of sending $53 million in weapons to a Bahraini king whose security forces have already been opening fire on peaceful protesters this year," said Sanjeev Bery, Amnesty's Washington-based advocacy director for Middle East and North Africa.

Amnesty said its findings showed the need for an international arms trade treaty to cut off the supply of weapons to countries seen at risk of raising arms against their own people.

Author: David Levitz (AP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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