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Arms companies are ‘outsourcing responsibility’ for war crimes, Amnesty says

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Arms companies are ‘outsourcing responsibility’ for war crimes, Amnesty says

A report by Amnesty International, published on 10 September 2019, has illuminated the systematic failure of numerous arms companies to undertake adequate due diligence and ensure that their weapons are not being used in potential human rights violations and war crimes. Instead, companies such as BAE Systems and Raytheon have been accused of 'washing their hands of responsibilities' and absolving themselves of guilt by shifting blame on to their respective Governments' who, they say, are responsible for regulating international arms trade under the terms laid out in the UN Arms Trade Treaty. Amnesty International have refuted this assertion, however, alleging that such spurious claims show willful ignorance to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which underlines how “companies must assess and address human rights risks and abuses arising in all aspects of their business, including how clients such as national armies and police forces use their weaponry and related services. ”

Of the 22 companies reached out to by Amnesty International, 14 did not respond, while the remaining 8 were unable to demonstrate evidence of due diligence. Many of the companies investigated have profited exponentially from supplying arms and services to Saudi Arabia / UAE-led coalition's campaign in Yemen, accused of committing war crimes and violating international human rights law through airstrikes, torture, arbitrary killings and the targeting of civilians “in a widespread and systematic manner ”, according to the UN. This includes an attack on a funeral hall in Sana in 2016 that killed 137, and a Saudi-coalition strike on a school bus in 2018 that left 40 children dead. Evidence of a British made bomb used to destroy a civilian building, killing one, was revealed by Amnesty International in 2015.

Though Britain has given £ 770m in food, medicines and other assistance to civilians in Yemen over the past half decade, over the same period it has made £ 6.2bn of arms sales to members of the Saudi-UAE led coalition. This acquiescence to the human cost of the arms trade deserves increased scrutiny, and these companies should be held accountable for potentially aiding and abetting war crimes alongside their respective governments. Amnesty International recommends companies demonstrate “openness and transparency” on their policies and processes for respecting human rights, and to cease supplying weapons “if it is impossible to avert the risks that arms will be used for human rights abuses.”

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