NEW YORK – Thirty countries are at risk of violating the United Nations arms embargo on Darfur by either directly or indirectly exporting arms to Sudan, according to a new report released today by a leading human rights advocacy group.

While many of the countries whose weapons are being sent to Sudan by third parties claim they are investigating the situation and working to stop the transfers, they are falling short of the U.N. embargo’s requirement that countries must take all possible measures to prevent arms from entering Darfur, the Human Rights First report finds.

“The Sudanese government has publicly said it will not comply with the embargo, and it has repeatedly refused to seek permission before transferring weapons to Darfur, as required by the embargo. Given that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is alleged to have committed genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur by the International Criminal Court, countries must do more to keep their weapons out of the hands of a potential war criminal,” said Betsy Apple, director of Human Rights First’s Crimes Against Humanity program and co-author of the report.

Read the full report here.

The report divides the countries into two categories: direct providers and producers. Twelve countries, including China, India, Kenya, Iran and Russia, by their own admission, ship arms directly to Sudan. In many of these cases, the countries’ claims were backed up by media reports of arms transfers or military cooperation agreements.

Twenty-four other countries – among them the United States, Switzerland, Germany and the United Kingdom – are identified as producers, based on Sudan’s claims that their arms ended up in Sudan. Some of the producer nations deny the transfers and the report finds that “it is likely that these countries did not directly sell weapons to Sudan but that the weapons were transferred by a third country” or that the government of Sudan “sees political advantage in over or underreporting arms transfers from particular countries.”

“Much attention has rightfully been paid to China’s role in fueling the commission of atrocities in Darfur, given that it is the largest exporter of small arms to Sudan,” said Apple, “but it is obvious that China is only one cog in the deadly machine of mass atrocities in Darfur, and the steady stream of arms from all over the world serves to grease the mechanism.”

By its own reports, Sudan imported weapons worth $76.3 million since 2004, not including fighter jets and combat aircraft. Yet, according to the reports of other countries, only $19.3 million worth of arms were sold to Sudan in this time period, suggesting that countries consistently underreport their exports to Sudan.

The embargo was imposed in 2004 and extended in 2005, requiring nations to “…take the necessary measures to prevent the sale or supply” to all the warring parties in Darfur. Since that time, Sudan, by its own reports, has acquired:

  • At least 45 new military aircraft, including combat aircraft, fighter jets and parts provided by Belarus and Russia.
  • More than $25 million worth of tanks and armored combat vehicles, which Sudan claims were provided by China, Switzerland, Iran, Germany, India and Syria.
  • A total of $29.5 million in small arms and light weapons (excluding ammunition and parts).
    $600,000 worth of ammunition, though a range of countries report selling Sudan nearly $10 million in ammunition.
  • $270,000 worth of swords, cutlasses and bayonets, the same weapons reportedly used by the Janjaweed in attacks on civilians.

Sudan’s total estimated defense budget from 2004-2006 was over $1.4 billion, but its reported arms imports account for just 5.4% of that, while total reported worldwide arms exports to Sudan amount to only 1.3% of its defense budget. Although percentages do not include troop salaries and aircraft purchases, the report states that “even taking these expenses into account, the trade figures are far lower than the government’s budgeted spending.” This means that Sudan’s import figures and worldwide export figures “seriously underestimate the arms sales to Sudan, so that the transfers documented in this report card are a mere fraction of Sudan”s total purchases.”

The report makes several concrete recommendations to the countries that have either directly or indirectly supplied arms or related material to Sudan, including:

  • Immediately voluntarily halt the transfer of arms to the Government of Sudan.
  • Ensure that domestic import controls use effective systems to track arms shipments.
  • Disclose all information about the supply, sale or transfer of arms and related material to Sudan and rebel groups in Darfur.

The report’s findings are based on the exhaustive review of three publicly available trade databases whose information is drawn from voluntary self-reporting by countries: the U.N. Commodity Trade Statistics Database, the U.N. Register on Conventional Arms Database and the Statistical Database of the European Union. Human Rights First also surveyed media reports and other publicly reported information to support the accuracy of database findings.

“After five years of conflict, Darfur is still awash with arms that have been used to destroy entire communities and terrorize men, women and children indiscriminately,” Apple said. “The goal of this report is to identify the countries whose arms are being used to commit these atrocities, whether intentionally or not, and get these states to strengthen their weapons export practices to ensure that they are doing everything possible to help end the violence in Darfur.”


Published on October 9, 2008


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