Special Treatment: UK Government support for the arms trade and industry

We are pleased to draw to your attention a new report by Sam Perlo-Freeman, project manager for our program on the Global Arms Business and Corruption. The report, “Special Treatment: UK Government support for the arms trade and industry,” was authored by Perlo-Freeman while he was at SIPRI, who describes it thus: “The arms industry and market, in the UK as in most other significant western arms-producing countries, has a unique status. Although its production capabilities are privately owned, it has the national government as its primary customer. Unlike other industries, especially in the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ economies, it is the subject of active government industrial policy.”

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The customer is always right

Last week, a bombing raid in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition seeking to restore the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, struck a funeral, killing 140 civilians. This is the latest in a series of outrages, well-documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations and others, whereby Saudi and allied forces have struck hospitals, schools, market-places and other civilian targets. Saudi-led bombing is believed to be responsible for the majority of civilian deaths in Yemen’s bloody civil war.

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PMCs and Security Sector Reform: A Mismatch

Beyond these individual examples of failure, there may be an inherent mismatch in seeking to instill values of professionalism, civic service, and democratic control of security sectors through private (and perhaps mercenary) contractors. In countries where SSR is struggling to confront marketplaces that commodify violence, PMCs represent exactly that—the commoditization of military skills.

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South African Arms Deal Commission Compromised: testimony of Hennie Van Vuuren

Commissioners, I am now faced with a difficult choice. How should I respond to your subpoena?

I am mindful of the fact that the arms deal has wrought havoc on the lives of ordinary South Africans and corrupted our politics for the past 15 years. It has profited international arms corporations while weakening our democratic state institutions. It has profited the rich at the expense of the poor.

I am also mindful that the cover-up that followed the arms deal has put in place a system of patronage with the purpose of keeping alleged corrupt elites out of prison. It allows them to continue benefiting from the spoils of an unequal society. I have regretfully come to the conclusion that this Commission will provide no remedy to this situation.

For these reasons, I can no longer in good conscience participate in a hearing of the Arms Procurement Commission.

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