Inici || Castellano | English
facebook twitter youtube issuu picasa rss

Spanish arms sales authorizations exceed 8,000 million Euros in 2012

“The economic crisis is not affecting Spanish arms exports”

  • The NGOs, concerned about the government’s resolution to increase arms exports in a context of reducing purchases in Spain 

  • In 2012 operations “raising concerns” with at least ten countries were authorized or carried out 

Madrid/Barcelona, 25 June 2013. During 2012, the Spanish government authorised arms and defence material exports worth over 8,000 million Euros, a figure representing an increase of over 150% compared to the authorizations in 2011. The Spanish arms sales actually carried out in 2012 fell by 13.6% compared to the previous year. These exports were worth over 2,200 million Euros in 2012. 

The report “The economic crisis is not affecting Spanish arms exports” launched today by Amnesty International, FundiPau, Greenpeace and Intermón Oxfam, examines these data. 

Exports at any cost are not acceptable

Sales of defence material and dual use (civil and military) goods in 2012 were carried out in a context of clear tension between the restrictions established by the Act 53/2007 on the control of foreign trade of defence material and dual use goods and the government’s resolution to increase sales abroad. The aim of the executive branch of the government, explicitly expressed by the minister of Defence, Pedro Morenés, is to support the arms industry to export more arms. This momentum has materialised in liberalisation measures to export defence material such as the Act 12/2012, of 26 December, regulating Government to Government agreements, and a busy international agenda for the minister to open up and consolidate new markets. 

We are concerned that this government policy will lead to a relaxation of controls and operations where there is a clear risk that the material sold is used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations are carried out”, stated María del Pozo, Institutional Relations Officer at Amnesty International. 

The Spanish military industry is suffering a drop in sales in the national market due to the government’s cuts in new purchases”, says Mario Rodríguez, Director of Greenpeace. “The historic debt accrued by the government with several Spanish companies of defence material is the main reason for this drop in the acquisitions and, at the same time, the interest in increasing exports” adds Jordi Armadans, Director of FundiPau.

Prioritising the sales at any cost increases the risk of relaxing the exports control criteria, something particularly alarming when the government is trying to find foreign markets for Spanish arms, ammunition and munitions in light of a dwindling national demand and increasing international competition”, declares Francisco Yermo, Humanitarian Advocacy Officer at Intermón Oxfam. 

Spotlight on Syria

The situation of the civilian population in Syria is particularly dramatic. The UN has reported that almost 100,000 people have died since the beginning of the civil war and that over seven million Syrian people depend on humanitarian aid. 

According to the information on 2012, Spain has neither carried out nor authorised any transfers of arms, ammunition or munitions to the Syrian government or opposition. Nevertheless, according to media reports, Foreign Affairs Minister García-Margallo has opened up the possibility that Spain may supply arms to Syrian opposition groups, after the partial lift in May of the European embargo on arms sales to Syria. 

Although the EU embargo is finally lifted from 1 August, Spain must ensure any transfers comply with the criteria of Article 8 of the Spanish law and those of the Arms Trade Treaty it signed in New York on 3 June. 

Progress in the enforcement of the Law, but there remain operations that raise concerns 

In its annual report on Spanish defence material exports in 2012, the government provides detailed information about the operations carried out, products, end user and end use. It is also very positive that there are cases in which the government has enforced the preventive approach of the Law, and denied already authorised licenses when there are concerns about the end use or user of the goods. In 2012, some licenses were revoked to Bahrain and Libya, after being authorised. 

Nevertheless, there remain some exports that raise concerns, including some to EU countries, such as France, involved in the military offensive in Mali, and those carried out to countries in North Africa and the Middle East. The goods bound for Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia risk being used to commit serious human rights violations. 

The possible sale of 250 Spanish Leopard battle tanks to Saudi Arabia is one of the cases that raise most concern. In 2009, Saudi armed forces used tanks in Northern Yemen in bombings where civilians were killed. NGOs recommend the Spanish government it makes this sale conditional to the establishment of safeguards and accountability systems to prevent the commission of serious violations of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law by the Saudi Armed forces. In addition, one should add the over 21 million Euros in arms, munitions and ammunition sent by Spain to this country in 2012. 

There have also been transfers of arms, munitions and ammunition which could be described as “raising particular concerns”, due to the nature of the exported material and the risk that this could be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations, to recipients in Colombia, Pakistan, Ghana, Mexico, Israel and the USA. 

NGOs recommendations

The report published by the Control Arms campaign makes specific recommendations to the government about the transfers in 2012, including:

  • Improving the oversight of operations that could raise concerns in terms of human rights, enforcing the preventive dimension of the Law, such as strengthening the parliamentary oversight of the transfers carried out and authorised. (These recommendations are also addressed to Congress, whose Defence Committee must give an Opinion in September about the government’s report, to ensure a rigorous enforcement of Article 8 of the Spanish Law.)
  • Amend the Spanish legislation and adapt it to the “Golden Rule” of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), laid down in its Articles 6 and 7, which involve the non authorisation of arms transfers for atrocities. 

The Spanish delegation was very pro-active in the ATT negotiations, defending the Golden Rule wording, and Trade Minister Soria, who signed the Treaty in New York on 3 June, was the only government official to declare, at the time of signing, that Spain “will apply provisionally Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty, pending its entry into force, in order to safeguard human rights and respect international humanitarian law”. This temporary commitment is very positive and must be present and guide any arms transfers licensing decisions.

Full report (in spanish)


1 The “Golden Rule”: Article 6.3 is an important step forward, as it prohibits arms transfers by a State if it has knowledge that the arms transfers would be used to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Article 7 will require a State Party to not authorise an export where there is an overriding risk that the export could be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international human rights or humanitarian law.  The risks of the arms export being used to commit or facilitate gender based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children must also be assessed.