By Jeff Abramson
In a live broadcast at 11:30 this morning, the State Department will release its annual human rights report. Among many hopes of what will become of this important yearly assessment, one is that it will spur an examination of U.S. arms transfer policies .
As noted last week, ACA staff have cross-checked the list of 28 countries for which Congress was notified of foreign military sales last year against the State Department’s last human rights reports. More than a third (11) of the states failed to guarantee freedom of speech, association, and assembly, as well as a free press. Torture, arbitrary arrest, and discrimination remained a problem in many of these same states. (Spreadsheet and further explanation available here.)
As arms supplying countries are reacting to the changes in the Middle East, and in many cases stopping transfers and rescinding licenses, the UK Parliament’s Committees on Armed Export Controls has just published its own report, which found:
the present Government and its predecessor misjudged the risk that arms approved for export to certain authoritarian countries in North Africa and the Middle East might be used for internal repression…. We also recommend that the Government sets out how it intends to reconcile the potential conflict of interest between increased emphasis on promoting arms exports with the staunch upholding of human rights.
For the United States, whose policies promote human rights and practices promote expanded arms sales, it is time to heed this advice and conduct its own comprehensive review of arms transfer policy. As governments around the globe work to create a robust arms trade treaty, it is essential that the world’s largest arms supplier is setting a world class standard.