A study made by Amnesty International, Intermón Oxfam, Greenpeace and the Fundació per la Pau (Foundation for Peace) on the official statistics of arms transactions in 2008 confirms that Spain exports defense material to countries where it could lead to the perpetration of human rights violations, the escalation of armed conflicts, or the deterioration of sustainable development.

According to these organizations, the Spanish government continues to withhold specific information about the criteria through which they have authorized the exportation to countries with a troublesome history such as Colombia, Israel or Sri Lanka, among others.

As specified by the information provided by the prestigious Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), this figure positions Spain as the sixth largest arms exporter in the world, after the United States, Russia, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

The organizations demand once more from the government full compliance with Spanish legislation, European rules and the obligations of Spain, in virtue of international law, regarding the authorization or refusal of export licenses for defense and dual-use material.

In the coming days, the Congressional Defense Committee is due to approve a report with recommendations to the government regarding the arms export statistics. The primary focus is on the annual statistics produced by the government after the law on the external trade of defense and double-use material went into effect in Spain.

Parliamentary groups have already presented their initial proposals. The study from the organizations includes a list of ten measures on the subject of transparency and control that must be met in order to comply in full with current legislation.

The humanitarian organizations urge representatives that they take advantage of this instrument of parliamentary control to ask for more information about several of the authorizations that took place in 2008; they also propose measures, never to deteriorate, that strengthen the control of trade of all types of defense, double-use and “other” material. A first step would include simply starting to think on a preventive level.
According to the report on the latest annual statistics presented to the Congress, in 2008 Spain made 934 million Euros worth of defense material transactions, a figure slightly higher than the previous year in spite of the economic crisis.

In 2008, Spain authorized transactions of defense material, other equipment, and hunting and sporting weapons, to an amount of more than 3 billion Euros, almost triple that of the operations made that year. This means that there was a series of operations that were approved but that did not materialize in 2008.

Some advances

The four organizations appreciate that the yearly statistics incorporate data regarding the transactions of hunting and sporting weapons and their ammunition, subjected to control for the first time in 2008, as well as information on the reasons that have brought about various refusals of exportation.

Also promising is the commitment between the government and the Spanish Parliament to put an end to the fabrication and exportation of cluster bombs, marked by the new Convention for the prohibition of cluster bombs, which Spain ratified on June 17.

“The law taking effect has brought with it advances in parliamentary control and transparency, as reflected in the official statistics of 2008. However, there still is a long road to walk down in order to comply fully with the legislation,” points out Francisco Ortego, spokesman for Amnesty International.

Opaque criteria

Of particular concern is that the government does not provide Congress with information on the criteria that it has considered in order to give the green light to licenses for the exportation of arms to countries involved in armed conflicts, which goes against what is stipulated by the law.

Among these cases, the sales that Spain authorized and made in 2008 under the category of “aircraft” to Columbia (110 millions of Euros of licenses authorized and 31 millions of Euros made) or the authorizations of material in the category of “bombs, torpedoes, missiles and rockets” worth almost 4 million Euros to Sri Lanka stand out.

It is also troubling that the Spanish government, despite having offered explanations regarding the exported material and their destinations, continues to disregard the urgent necessity to suspend the exportation of defense and double-use material to Israel (157,200 Euros authorized and 2.3 million Euros worth of transactions made in 2008) as long as there are no reliable guarantees that they will not use them to commit violations of international humanitarian law and until the authorities of this country collaborate with the investigations attempting to shed light on the human rights violations perpetrated during the crisis in Gaza.

“It is essential that the government explains in detail how they based their decision that all of these authorizations comply with the law and that they refuse those petitions which clearly are in contrary to the legislation. And the Congress must insist on this in the next report and through other mechanisms of parliamentary control,” affirms Francisco Yermo, spokesman for Intermón Oxfam.

List of ten indicators

The study by the humanitarian organizations includes a list of ten directives, the fulfillment of which would serve to indicate the willingness of the government to advance on the matter of transparency and control of the Spanish arms trade.

“The list requests, among other measures, that the government explains how it applies the existing criteria for the authorization or refusal of an arms export and informs Congress about the type of products and the users of the arms exported as well as of the guarantee that there is no risk of deviation or re-exportation of the hunting and sporting weapons and their ammunition to Third World countries,” indicates Jordi Armadáns, spokesman for the Fundació per la Pau.

The list also asks for the preventive suspension of arms exports, despite being previously authorized, to countries where there is an armed conflict or those which could use them to commit violations of human rights or international humanitarian law.

Finally, it encourages the government to take an active and prominent role in the process of the development of an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and to continue its current policy toward the elimination of cluster bombs.

*(Translation: T. M. Orzolek)*