Next week the 3rd Arms Trade Treaty Prep Com at the United Nations in New York (July 11-15th) will take place. The purpose of a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is to set up legally binding rules to regulate the global arms trade. Questions like: which weapons will be integrated in a regulating mechanism? Will small arms and light weapons be included? Should aspects like human rights be considered when arms exports to authoritarian countries are coming under scrutiny?
The last question has become a pressing issue in Germany. The news magazine “Der Spiegel” has reported that Germany plans to sell 200 Leopard 2 tanks to Saudi-Arabia. These tanks could also be used against demonstrators says a German security expert. Now, in the Prep Coms Germany has supported a human rights based approach to an ATT – see the statement made by a Belgian special envoy speaking on behalf of the European Union:
“An ATT should prevent conventional weapons from being used to contribute to armed conflicts, trans-national organized crime, terrorist acts, serious human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law, which undermine peace, security, regional stability, and sustainable social and economic development.”
The German government does not seem to be concerned about possible human rights violations in Saudi-Arabia like a crackdown of Saudis who are protesting in favor of reforms or violence against protesters in nearby Bahrain (like it happened in March). Instead, the argument goes like this:
Iran is pursuing regional power ambitions => Iran is kind of an enemy and a threat for regional stability => Saudi-Arabia should be supported to be a counterbalance to Iran in the region=> If we don’t deliver them the US, Spain or others will do it.
Obviously the German government hasn’t noticed the momentum of human-rights in the Arab world. Instead of sending tanks to Saudi-Arabia the German government should stick to its declared goal of trying to prevent human rights violations. What else would you call a possible use of German tanks for cracking down protests in Saudi-Arabia or Bahrain?