Arms exports to repressive regimes; the sale of arms components to conflict parties; the illegal trade of rifles – European arms and ammunition producers time and again overstep (international) law. Lax guidelines and insufficient export controls fuel the deadly business with European weapons. Transnational corporations and corrupt elites are the biggest winners of this system. Civilians in conflict regions, authoritarian states and elsewhere suffer the use of these arms – arms trade violates their safety instead of protecting it.
In 2014, the national security forces in the federal state of Guerrero in Mexico disappeared 43 students from a local university – a crucial role played an arms export by Heckler & Koch.
Despite extensive evidence of war crimes and other international crimes being committed in Yemen, several companies as RWM Italia (a subsidiary of German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall AG) continue to provide members of the Saudi-led coalition with weapons, ammunition and equipment.
Research conducted by human rights organizations indicates that the use of small arms, including those produced by European companies, can also lead to gender-specific injustice and the increase in violence against women – and not just in conflict regions.
One of the contradictions at the heart of the issue is that while corporations like Rheinmetall and Heckler & Koch profit from ongoing conflicts, the countries where these companies are based are in some cases providing humanitarian aid to the very population targeted by these arms.
ECCHR takes legal actions to challenge inadequate arms export controls and to hold political decision makers as well as European corporations to account.