Watchdog Wants Halt to Guinea Arms Sales
By Selah Hennessy
09 October 2009
A human rights watchdog is calling for a halt to arms sales to the West African country of Guinea. Amnesty International says Guinean security forces, who last week killed opposition supporters at a pro-democracy rally, are armed with European weapons. The group is calling on the U.N. to start formal negotiations for an international arms trade treaty.
Amnesty International Africa Program Director Erwin van der Borght says the international sale of weapons to Guinea security forces must stop. "Well what we're calling for is an immediate suspension of all transfers of police military equipment, ammunition and other equipment, which could be used to commit human rights abuses by security forces in Guinea," he said.
On September 28 security forces in Guinea opened fire on protesters gathered in the capital Conakry. The United Nations says more than 150 people died in the crackdown. Guinea's health ministry says 56 people were killed.
Van der Borght says security forces in Guinea have a history of using excessive force against peaceful protesters. "Well certainly it is a recurring problem. Many of the security forces are ill equipped, poorly trained and there are no clear command and control structures. What we also see as in Guinea is that military personnel is being used for policing tasks for which they have not been properly trained. And of course we also see it in situations of armed conflict where government forces and armed groups commit massive human rights abuses and violations in context of those conflicts," he said.
According to Amnesty International, photographs of Guinean police officers taken in Conakry October 1 show them carrying grenade launchers made in France. On the same day, it says Guinean security were photographed in a South African Mamba armored personnel carrier.
Van der Borght says right now voluntary codes of conduct and agreements on arms sales are in place on a regional level in Europe and some parts of Africa. But he says a legally binding treaty with clear mechanisms for monitoring and enforcement is needed. "What we are pushing for as Amnesty International is that there are also clear provisions that before transfers are being made of military and police equipment that there is a clear evaluation on whether or not there is a likelihood that they will contribute to human rights violations. And if so those transfers should not take place," he said.
The African Union is due to meet on October 17 to discuss possible sanctions against Guinea's military junta following last month's shooting. The European Union has said it will contribute to a peacekeeping mission in Guinea should the AU organize one.
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