NO ABSOLUTE PROHIBITION FOR ARMS TRADE TO NON-DEMOCRACIES
On October 24th the Swedish government presented their proposition “Stricter control of trade with arms and war-equipment”.
On October 24th the Swedish government presented their proposition “Stricter control of trade with arms and war-equipment” as a concrete proposal for a new law and new policies for Swedish arms trade. We welcome the fact that the proposal finally was presented and that the great risks and consequences with arms trade to non-democracies are acknowledged. We are also very concerned that the wording of the proposition is too vague to grant that non-democracies will be prohibited to receive any Swedish arms or war-equipment.
The proposition, can at first sight tend to present a stricter policy of the control of trade with arms and war-equipment but after a brief analysis is it clear that the proposition is filled with loopholes and frail formulations which easily can be interpreted in many different ways. Since the government’s decision to renew the law and policies about arms trade in 2011, Sweden has supplied non-democracies with arms and war equipment for an amount worth more than 20 000 million Swedish crowns (SEK). It is about time for the government and the parliament to prove real meaning, importance and gravity of a new, stricter control of trade with arms and war equipment.
– It’s been seven years since the process of forming a new law about arms trade started. We and many others have high hopes that the process will result with an end of the Swedish trade with arms and war-equipment to non-democracies. Sweden stands on the wrong side regarding arms trade to non-democracies, this results that Sweden is a supplier of arms to oppressing states. We assume and hope that the government’s new proposed criteria of the receiver state’s democracy status actually will lead to a change de facto, says Agnes Hellström, President of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society.
The government proposes a democracy-criteria which implies that the receiver state’s democracy status shall be a central condition to grant trade. Severe deficiency in the democratic status shall be seen as an obstacle for granting arms trade. Even though the receiver state’s respect for the human rights already shall be seen as a central condition for granting trade has trade to states such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Thailand been approved. If the receiver state’s respect for human rights already would have been seen as a central condition we would not have needed the discussion about democracy criteria. This shows faults in the existing law and policies.
– The Swedish arms trade to dictatorships and non-democracies must come to an end if Sweden wants to behold a trustworthy foreign policy. Sweden cannot at the same time stand up for democracy and legitimize and strengthen dictatorships with arms and war equipment. The government’s statement that the receiver state’s democracy status shall be seen as an obstacle is too vague because, how can we measure how big an obstacle is? says Agnes Hellström.
– Right now, we are also very concerned about that the Sweden’s foreign minister Ann Linde, together with a trade delegation is present in Saudi Arabia. The fact that the trade delegation includes Saab’s President of the Board, Marcus Wallenberg, is sending out problematic signals, says Agnes Hellström.
According to the proposition, every case will be going through an overall judgement. The judgement shall put criteria such as human rights opposed to criteria such as the Swedish interests regarding defense and security that is angled to speak for arms trade. The wording will not grant that non-democracies and countries that violate human rights will not be able to buy Swedish arms and war equipment. Therefore the transparency around the decisions will be crucial in order to claim responsibility how the arms trade will work de facto.
– It’s a great disappointment that many of the proposals that were presented in the parliamentary arms trade review commission (Krigsmaterielexportöversynskommittén, the so called Kex) to increase and enable accountability of responsibility has vanished in the proposition. The policy of trade with arms and war-equipment is an area that lacks democratic insight and also lacks possibilities to ask parliamentarians and politicians about their strategies of arms trade. It is unacceptable that decisions and judgements in such a controversial question as the trade with arms and war-equipment will continue to be hidden behind the seal of confidentially, says Agnes Hellström, President of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society.