Amnesty Lists Bulgaria among Top Weapon Suppliers to Middle East Dictators

Diplomacy | October 19, 2011, Wednesday // 10:27|  views

Some of the munitions found in civil war-torn Libya were Bulgarian, according to Amnesty International. File photo by EPA/BGNES

The USA, Russia and many European countries have supplied large amounts of arms to repressive regimes in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011 used against demonstrators, according to the latest report of Amnesty International.

The report is titled Arms Transfers to The Middle East and North Africa: Lessons for an Effective Arms Trade Treaty and examines arms transfers to Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen since 2005.

It notes that governments that have supported the swell of protests across the region have, at the same time, supplied the weapons used against the rebels.

The London-based group says its findings show the dangers involved in selling arms to repressive countries under a system that makes it difficult to tell who ends up with the weapons and how they are used.

Amnesty looked at arms transfers since 2005 to key countries shaken by protests this year: Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain. It found that the main suppliers of arms since 2005 were the US, Britain, Russia, Germany, Italy, France, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.

At least 11 states have provided military assistance or allowed exports of weaponry, munitions and related equipment to Yemen, where some 200 protesters have lost their lives in 2011. These include Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, the Russian Federation, Turkey, Ukraine, the UK and the US.

According to the report, obtaining arms data for Syria is difficult as few governments officially report on their arms trade with the Syrian government. It notes that the Russian Federation is known as the biggest arms supplier to Syria with reportedly about 10% of all Russian arms exports going there.

Russia does not publish an annual report on its arms exports meaning that its arms transfer to the region cannot be quantified, Amnesty explain.

India authorized the supply of armored vehicles to Syria whilst France sold munitions between 2005 and 2009, the report notes.

Amnesty International has identified 10 states whose governments licensed the supply of weaponry, munitions and related equipment to Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi's Libyan regime since 2005, including Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain and the UK.

Much of the heavy weaponry found in Libya by Amnesty International researchers looks to have been manufactured during the Soviet-era – Russian or Soviet-made. Some of the munitions found were also Chinese, Bulgarian and Italian such as the Type 72 anti-tank mines, rocket fuses and 155mm artillery rounds, respectively.

At least 20 states have sold and supplied small arms, ammunition, tear gas and riot control agents, and other equipment to Egypt. The US has been the biggest – annually providing USD 1.3 B. Others include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Italy, and Switzerland.

Amnesty International, however, recognized that the international community has taken some steps this year to restrict international arms transfers to Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

Tags: Amnesty International, report, Bulgaria, weapons, Middle East, North Africa, repressive, regimes, protests, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, United States, Russia


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