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.
In October 2016, an airstrike – alleged to have been carried out by the Saudi-led military coalition – struck a civilian home in the village of Deir Al-Hajari in northwest Yemen. The intentional directing of attacks against the civilian population amounts to war crimes. ECCHR is taking legal action against this.
Despite countless attacks on civilian homes, markets, hospitals and schools – conducted by the Saudi/UAE-led military coalition – transnational companies based in Europe continued and continue to supply Saudi Arabia and the UAE with weapons, ammunition and logistical support. European government officials authorized the exports by granting licenses.
In February 2019, the Regional Court in Stuttgart (Germany) convicted employees of the arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch in a case concerning the shipment of rifles to Mexico. The court investigated whether, between 2006 and 2009, Heckler & Koch illegally sold Type G36 rifles to the Mexian police.