The need for Urgent Government Action
“Within the past decade, over 250 conflicts have affected all parts of the world. About 55,000 people perish annually as a direct consequence of armed conflict. The number of those displaced by conflict has reached levels not seen since the Second World War: currently, more than 33 million people are displaced because of conflict and violence. Chillingly, children have been recruited and used by armed forces and groups, killed and maimed, forced into displacement and made victims of sexual violence in 23 conflict situations around the world.
Armed conflict is the main cause of people fleeing their homes and of food insecurity. It undermines our work for social justice, the rule of law and the Millennium Development Goals. “
– The UN Secretary General in his 27 April 2015 report on small arms and light weapons.
Small arms and light weapons are responsible for the majority—between 60 and 90%, depending on the conflict—of direct conflict deaths, of which there were between 80,000 and 108,000 worldwide in 2003. (Source: Small Arms Survey 2005). They cause a larger but unquantifiable number of indirect deaths due to conflict-related social disruption, which leads to malnutrition and deaths from preventable diseases.
Alarmingly UK brokers are issued with export licences without any background checks for illegal arms brokering including past convictions, current investigations, communication with foreign governments to access to their bank records etc. In fact several brokers were issued with licences whist undergoing investigation for illegal activity both here and in the US.
Gary Hyde who was still being given UK weapons trade licences in 2010 even though he came under investigation for illegal gun running in 2007. He illegally traded 70,000 assault rifles, including AK-47s, and 32m rounds of ammunition to Nigeria, enough to arm a small army. To this day no one knows where they are. He was eventually sentenced to 7 years in jail in 2012, the trial judge ordered the destruction of his remaining stock of 14,000 AK-47s. Unfortunately in 2014 an appeal court, on a minor point of law, overturned the judgement and his company is free to trade these whilst he is in jail. He was disqualified from being a company director, however this did not stop his wife from taking over the Company with the possibility to sell the AK-47s.
In 2007 Sir John Stanley, former Chair of the Arms Export Committee, in a trip to the Ukraine was handed a list of UK brokers dealing in surplus Ukrainian weapons. The list included places of serious concern, such as Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya, and conflict zones like Rwanda, Uganda and Sri Lanka. The British authorities had no knowledge or sight these trades but eight of them were known to and were approved by the Export Control Organisation in the Business Department.
TRAKNAT was instrumental in persuading Vince Cable, the then Business Secretary, to issue his officials with instructions to vet arms brokers. Regrettably this seems to have been ignored by the present Government. We will work hard with local MPs and other groups throughout the country to make sure vetting is implemented.