Response to WHAT ABOUT OTHER WARS? (2)

The following is from an Amnesty Report on G8 arms sales to countries guilty of egregious human rights abuses. This describes UK sales to the Congo: Democratic Republic of the Congo Extrajudicial execution, torture and rape of civilians by all sides continue to characterize the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian organization, has estimated that since August 1998 over 3 million civilians have been killed or died from hunger and disease as a consequence of the conflict. By the end of 2002 over 2.5 million had been driven from their homes and many were beyond the reach of humanitarian assistance. Despite this catalogue of human misery, British pilots and air cargo companies have been allowed by the United Kingdom (UK) government to supply weapons to armed forces in the DRC responsible for mass human rights abuses. Under current UK law, as long as the weapons are collected and routed outside UK territory to a destination not embargoed by the UN, such arms trafficking is perfectly legal. The traffickers have used links in other European Union (EU) countries or outside EU jurisdiction to circumvent the 1993 non-binding EU embargo on arms sales to the DRC. In a taped video interview for Oxfam, a British pilot described how in 1999 and 2000 he flew AK47 assault rifles from Rwanda and Uganda into the rebel-held town of Kisangani in the DRC. He claimed the planes were registered in Swaziland for Planetair and New Gomair. The UN identified New Gomair as probably carrying illegal natural resources from the DRC and Planetair was named by the US government as supplying arms to eastern DRC. In the interview, the British pilot said: "Mostly the stuff we carried were brand new AKs plus the ammunition. They're all packed in plastic bags and in beautiful condition... It's quite a standard operation for us... We know there is a war on. We are not involved in it because we're just charter pilots... We were doing about 80 to 90 hours flying a month... It is very easy. Leave the hotel, do a little hour there and two hours on the ground and you are back in time for dinner." In June 2000, six days of fighting between Rwandese and Ugandan forces for the control of Kisangani left over 1,200 civilians dead. Amnesty International subsequently identified offices in London run by Sky Air Cargo, a company that had operated a Liberian-registered cargo plane known to have carried arms to Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola.(213) Strangely, the Liberian Civil Aviation Regulatory Authority was run by a UK business in Kent, England, during 1999 and 2000.(214) When too many questions were asked, the Kent businessman switched to selling registrations for Equatorial Guinea. UN investigations have shown that aircraft on these UK-run registers were used for international arms trafficking to Angola, Sierra Leone and Central Africa, including the DRC.(215) Current UK law also fails to prevent UK transport companies being used for arms trafficking abroad. In April 2000, a UK newspaper, the Guardian and a UK NGO, Saferworld, identified an ageing Liberian-registered Boeing 707 that had been contracted to fly arms from Bulgaria and Slovakia to Harare in Zimbabwe. The arms were apparently destined for Zimbabwean forces in the DRC.(216) The plane's handlers used the offices and facilities of a UK cargo company with offices in Ostend, Belgium, without the knowledge of its owners.

Created By: maidhc o'cathail