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Control Arms Campaign, concerned for the possible export of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia

Barcelona-Madrid, 26/10/2010. The Spanish NGOs of the Control Arms Campaign -Amnesty International, Fundació per la Pau (Peace Foundation), Intermón Oxfam and Greenpeace- are seriously concerned by the news published yesterday by “El País”, according to which the Spanish government would be negotiating the sale of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia worth 3,000 million Euros.

“We are concerned that this possible operation clearly breaches the Law to Control Foreign Trade of Defence and Dual Use Material (Law 53/2007, dated 28th December), which states that arms transfers will not be licensed to countries where human rights are violated”, said Jordi Armadans, Director of the Fundació per la Pau.

“On the other hand, we are concerned by the huge amount of this operation, as this sale would mean twice as much as the overall figure of arms sales that Spain reached in 2009 -1,491 million Euros which is the highest yearly figure ever reached-” said Mabel González, Head of Disarmament in Greenpeace.

Due to all this, the Control Arms Campaign will demand a public explanation from the government on this issue and the halt this operation which clearly breaches current legislation.

 “Saudi Arabia is a country with serious human rights violations, reluctant to acknowledge minority rights, women’s rights in particular, and adopts a repressive approach on freedom matters, including frequent use of torture, executions of death penalty sentences and the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience”, said María del Pozo, Amnestry International’s Foreign Policy officer.

Despite this, according to official data from the Spanish government, in 2009 Saudi Arabia received Spanish defence and dual use goods worth nearly 5 million Euros, particularly in ammunition and combat aircraft. Amnesty International’s spokesperson has expressed concern about the possible use of the Spanish armoured vehicles in Northern Yemen, where the Yemeni authorities are sacrificing human rights in the name of security as they confront threats from al-Qa’ida, Zaidi Shi'a rebels in the north. In a recent report, AI documents a catalogue of human rights violations including unlawful killings of those accused of links to al-Qa'ida and Southern Movement activists, and arbitrary arrests, torture and unfair trials.

“The Spanish government must be coherent and make this sale conditional upon the establishment of safeguards such as training and accountability to prevent serious violations of human rights and International Humanitarian Law by the Saudi armed forces in Northern Yemen”,  said Francisco Yermo, Humanitarian Advocacy officer of Intermón Oxfam. IO, Amnesty International and IANSA, an international of NGOs are advocating the adoption of an Arms Trade Treaty being negotiated in the UN which includes the refusal of arms transfers when there is a substantial risk that they may be used for serious violations of international human rights law or International Humanitarian Law until remedial measures removing that risk have been taken.

Article 8 of the Law 53/2007 establishes that authorisation requests and export authorisations will be suspended or revoked under the following circumstances, among others “When it can be reasonably assumed that the defence material, other material or dual use items and technologies may be used for actions which would disturb the peace, stability or security on a global or regional scale, could heighten tensions or latent conflicts, could be used in such a way as to disrespect the inherent dignity of human beings, which could be used for domestic repression or in situations of human rights violations or are destined to countries with a track record of diverting transferred material or which could violate international commitments undertaken by Spain.”

Background information

The Spanish NGOs are concerned about the possible use of the armoured vehicles. The long-running conflict in the northern Sa’da Governorate between government forces and armed supporters of the late Zaidi Shi’a cleric Hussain Badr al-Din al-Huthi resumed with new intensity from August, when the government launched a military offensive codenamed Scorched Earth that included aerial bombing and deployment of ground troops. The authorities have failed to carry out independent and impartial investigations into alleged unlawful killings by their forces. Over 190,000 people had been displaced by the fighting since 2004, according to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, in December, and an unknown number of civilians were killed in 2009.

Attacks by security forces against those described by the government as “al-Qa'ida” or “terrorists” appear to have become more frequent since December 2009. The security forces have killed at least 113 people since the beginning of 2009 in such attacks.  Many people were killed when the security forces used excessive force. On 17 December 2009, 41 men, women and children in the southern governorate of Abyan. Some of the killings appear to have been extrajudicial executions. In response the government initiated an investigation by parliamentary committee which concluded that the killings were a mistake that the security forces appear not to have made an attempt to arrest wanted men, and that compensation should be paid to the family of the victims.  Allegations of such a gross violation of human rights should trigger an immediate, independent and comprehensive judicial investigation to determine whether they were unlawful killings and, if so, those responsible should be brought to justice.