EU tightens arms restrictions

Gift Phiri

THE European Union (EU) has said it will tighten its controls on arms exports amid reports that member states continue to supply weapons to Harare despite an arms embargo imposed four years ago. <
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Widespread human rights abuses by the Zimbabwean security agencies and armed party supporters prompted the EU in January 2000 to impose an embargo on military equipment to Zimbabwe.


The 25-member bloc argued that its member states could not continue selling weapons to a country that is engaged in violence and repression.


The EU this week warned new members that those caught flouting the gunrunning ban would face serious consequences. Most of the countries alleged to be engaged in the arms trade with Zimbabwe are among the 10 new entrants joining the EU on May 1.


Four of the 10 new member states have a large number of weapons manufacturing companies. The Czech Republic has 27, Poland 22, Slovakia 11 and Slovenia six.


“The EU arms control committee will not allow gunrunners to continue to export weapons to conflict zones and countries which ignore human rights such as Zimbabwe,” the EU council said in a statement posted on its website.


“It is imperative to remind new member states that they are bound by an EU Code of Conduct agreed in 1998, which sets out common standards for the management of the arms trade. Any member state found in breach of this regulation will face disciplinary action.”


The EU catalogued a series of arms trade deals that have taken place with Harare after the imposition of the trade embargo. It said Austrian arms company Steyr delivered 66 four-wheel drive vehicles to the Zimbabwe National Army in November 2001, almost a year after the imposition of the arms embargo.


The Austrian authorities claimed that the vehicles were not covered by the EU embargo or by Austrian national legislation on military equipment because they were not fitted with guns and other special devices.


The EU also noted that the government of Zimbabwe received a consignment of six ex-Czech army RM 70 122mm multiple rocket launchers in 2000.


The 25-member bloc also observed that in March 2000 a plane left Bratislava Airport bound for Harare, allegedly carrying undeclared weapons cargo for use by Zimbabwean forces in the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


The EU also accuses the United Kingdom of transferring spare parts for military aircraft to Zimbabwe in 2000 despite concerns that Zimbabwe was using these jets in the conflict in DRC.


The EU further accuses the UK government of supplying over 1 000 Land Rovers to the Zimbabwe Republic Police as part of a Department for International Development programme to help reform the police in Zimbabwe. The project was valued at US$14,8 million.