Amnesty International puts spotlight on Czech arms exports to Yemen

Yemen's Counter Terrorism Unit members, photo: CTK

Amnesty International has put some of the spotlight on the Czech Republic in a report about the situation in conflict ridden Yemen. The international human rights watchdog organization says that Czech arms are being shipped to a country where opponents of the local government are being tortured or disappear for long periods into detention or are executed.

Yemen's Counter Terrorism Unit members, photo: CTK
The Czech Republic comes in for criticism in a 103-page Amnesty International report on the human rights situation there called “Yemen: Cracking Down Under Pressure ” which was released on Wednesday.

The main theme of the report is that US and European governments are prepared to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses by the weak central government which is trying to deal with Shiite rebels, Al-Qaeda attacks and a separatist movement in the south of the country.

Kateřina Šaldová is spokeswoman for the Czech branch of Amnesty International.

“Amnesty International Czech Republic revealed that the Czech government authorized the trade of arms to Yemen and we are calling on the government and exporters to ensure that all exports to Yemen are designed and implemented in a manner that is in conformity with international human rights law and human rights standards.”

She said the report also criticized Britain, Germany and Bulgaria for their arms exports to Yemen.

The Czech Republic is specifically criticized in the report as one of the main European suppliers of military material to Yemen. Export licenses totalling 52.4 million euros were given out by European Union countries in 2008. The Czech Republic was responsible for around 17 million euros of that total with 1.22 million euros of arms eventually delivered to Yemen.

According to customs declarations, the report says the Czech Republic delivered 11.5 million euros worth of military and non military arms material to Yemen between 2007 and 2009. That is around twice as much as the next country listed, Turkey.

Amnesty says the Czech military material was made up of vehicles, lights arms, ammunition, mines, bombs and torpedoes.

The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that the eventual total of arms exports to Yemen was small. It stressed that all requests for authorization for exports are very carefully scrutinized.

This is not the first time this year that the Czech government has been criticized by Amnesty International. In March, the organization picked out the country for exporting instruments of torture to a series of countries where it said there was a high likelihood they would be used. The instruments included electric shock equipment, chemical sprays and shackles.

US agencies have highlighted Yemen as one of the biggest possible terrorist threats and argue that the tottering central government should be supported to help curb the risk.