"Give Peace a Chance" - the arms trade

"Give Peace a Chance" is a discussion forum that was held in Prague parallel to the NATO summit. Bringing together a number of experts, it discussed topics varying from human rights issues to the use of armaments. One of the topics discussed at the forum was the arms industry and the possibilities for changing the terms of the arms trade. Dita Asiedu was at the seminar and brings back this report:

The Czech Republic has ratified 13 conventions and agreements which are meant to control the proliferation of arms. One of the most important is the Kodex agreement which is coordinated under the European Union. Its main criteria prevent the sale of arms to countries which are suspected of violating human rights and individual freedoms as well as to enemies of the European Union. By ratifying the Kodex agreement in 1998 the Czech Republic agreed to its implementation under Czech law. However, according to Milan Stefanec from the civic association Nesehnuti focusing on the arms trade in the Czech Republic, the country has not been doing its best to uphold the agreement:

"It turns out that the Czech Republic in the last four or five years has exported a large amount of arms to countries such as Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Georgia, Yemen, and Zimbabwe. A big problem was when we had an order of 2.5 million dollars worth of arms. Not only did the arms end up in the hands of the Sri Lanka government, which is suspected of violating human rights, but they also ended up in the hands of the Tamil Tigers who are at war with the ruling government. So on both sides of the conflict there were Czech arms. It is important to understand that this directly goes against the Kodex agreement of the European Union because arms are not supposed to be sold to areas where they can be used in a civil war."

The control mechanism in the Czech Republic that governs the sale of arms states that any one company wishing to engage in the buying or selling of weapons must be licensed by the ministry of industry and trade. Mr Stefanec argues that the problem lies with the Czech authorities doing little to control the sale of used arms which are to be replaced with more modern equipment. The ministry, he said, needed to do more to prevent the resale of arms to states which violate human rights.