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Control Arms demands the end of secrecy and lack of control in the export of Spanish weapons

Last year, the Port of Bilbao has been the scene of the shipment of over 300 containers with explosives to Saudi Arabia despite the risk of them being used to commit war crimes in Yemen

The campaign calls for an end to arms exports that breach the Spanish arms trade law, including those to Saudi Arabia

Report Armas sin control. Un oscuro negocio Marca España

(Bilbao).- The Spanish Control Arms campaign coalition, made up of Amnesty International, Greenpeace, FundiPau and Oxfam Intermón, demands the end of the secrecy in the sale of Spanish weapons to Saudi Arabia and the lack of control of the use of the arms exported, practices which are revealed “Armas without control: A dark business made in Spain”.

The Directors of the four NGOs have demanded the Secretary of State for Trade of the Spanish government, who chairs the Interministerial Board regulating the foreign trade of defence and dual use equipment that governs the arms trade, and to whom last May they requested a meeting which still has not been granted, to cease arms exports that may be used in the conflict of Yemen, including arms exports to Saudi Arabia. The Directors of the NGOs have made this call in a press conference on board the Esperanza Greenpeace ship in the Port of Bilbao, from where, over 300 containers with explosives bound for Saudi Arabia have been shipped in the past year.

According to the UN, since March 2015, at least 5,144 civilians have been killed and 8,749 have been injured in this war, where all parties to the conflict have committed serious violations of international humanitarian law with total impunity and almost 19 million displaced people depend on humanitarian assistance.

The study reports that the over 650 million Euros worth of arms exported by Spain to Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the conflict in Yemen, in March 2015, are a clear example of the failure to comply witn the Spanish and European legislation and the Arms Trade Treaty, as well as the secrecy and lack of control in the sector 10 years after the enactment of the Spanish law on the arms trade.

The report analyzes the entire licensing process of the exports and the after-sales monitoring of the arms exported and raises a range of very worrying reasonable doubts: Does the government make a rigurous assessment, on a case by case basis, of every arms transfer to Saudi Arabia under the criteria set out in the legislation? How can it guarantee that the arms are not being used in the conflict in Yemen? What kind of on-site monitoring does Spain do? Can the Spanish government guarantee it is not being complicit in the commission of war crimes?

The authorities have not given a satisfactory answer to these and other key questions. As pointed out in the report, the fact that the minutes of the Interministerial Board that licences arms exports are secret by virtue of an agreement of the Cabinet of Ministers adopted in March 1987 under the 1968 Official Secrets Act makes it impossible to adequately hold the government accountable for its arms exports policy. The report also reveals the shortcomings of the Spanish system to control the use of the actual exports, studies the keys of the export licensing and considers the government’s opting for the export of arms.

The report’s findings show the urgent need to put an end to critical exports such as those to Saudi Arabia that could be used in Yemen, revoking the licences already granted and not negotiating further contracts. Likewise, it is essential to take measures to improve transparency, the risk assessment of the use of the arms prior to licensing, monitoring the use of the arms exported and the need fo prior parliamentary control of certain sensitive exports. The report makes eight recommendations to the government and parliamentary groups, including the establishment of a parliamentary subcommittee to review the implementation of the Law on the ocassion of its 10th anniversary and that the reform of the 1968 Official Secrets Act, inititated by the Basque Nationalist Party EAJ-PNV, aligns with international human rights standards.

Esteban Beltrán, Director of Amnesty International, has urged the Spanish government to “stop the sale of arms which could be used in Yemen because it is illegal under Spanish and international law on arms trade”. Beltrán reported that the “Saudi-led coalition has launched scores of illegal air-strikes, some of which could be considered war crimes, of which Spain risks to be complicit, which have killed thousands of civilians and destroyed schools, hospitals, markets and houses”. The Saudi coalition has acknowledged using cluster munitions, banned internationally, in a conflict in which all parties have committed serious violations and abuses. Beltrán has demanded the Spanish government to “put an end to these shipments of arms and not to authorize further arms sales to Saudi Arabia which may be used in Yemen, including the possible contract that the public Spanish company Navantia is negotianting to build five corvettes for the Saudi navy, as long as there remains a substantial risk that they could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international law or be diverted for such purposes”.

José María Vera, Director of Oxfam Intermón, has said that “It is inacceptable that the response of the Spanish government to the conflict in Yemen, the largest humanitarian crisis in the world according to the UN, with at least seven million people on the brink of famine and with hundreds of thousands suffering cholera, is reducing humanitarian assistance and selling arms without control”. The war is exacerbating the humanitarian situation in the poorest country in the Middle East, while both parties prevent the distribution of humanitarian assistance. Vera called on the government to “monitor on-site how Saudi Arabia uses the bombs, munitions, ammunition or the air-to-air refuelling planes exported since 2015, as they are weapons that could be used in the airstrikes in Yemen”. He also urged Spain to substantially increase the humanitarian assistance.

Mario Rodríguez, Director of Greenpeace, has said that: “It gives the impression that the secrecy on the arms trade is yet another instrument of the official policy to support arms exports, a move welcomed by the companies in this sector. Actually, these exports have substantially increased in recent years and in the 2012-2015 legislature they reached 13,000 million Euros, twice the figure of the previous one”. “Transparency is a key element to contribute to peace and it is essential for effective accountability”, Rodríguez said. “In this regard, the Official Secrets Act is one of the main obstacle to make progress on transparency, ensure the Government complies with the law and prevent irresponsable exports. That is why the Spanish Parliament should urgently pass the reform of the Official Secrets Act and bring it into line with international standards”, concluded Rodríguez, who has also called on the Spanish government to revoke the agreement of the Cabinet Meeting dated 12 March 1987 which classified as secret the minutes of the Interministerial Board regulating the arms trade, as it prevents from making public the grounds for, for example, granting arms exports licences to Saudi Arabia.

Jordi Armadans, Director of FundiPau, has stated that “It is time to take stock and keep making progress on the transparency and parlamentary control of the Spanish arms trade. This is why, on the ocassion of the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Spanish arms trade law, has urged parliamentary groups, which in the coming days will be voting on an opinion, with recommendations to the government on arms exports in 2015 and 2016, to push for “the establishment of a parliamentary subcommitee to review the implementation of Act 53/2007 and identify measures to strenghthen the transparency mechanisms, exports monitoring and the establishment of a mechanism of prior parlamentary scrutiny for sensitive exports.