London: A European Union (EU) arms embargo on Myanmar is under threat from an Indian project to sell an attack helicopter to the military regime, Amnesty International said in a report on Monday.
The London-based rights group said France, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Italy and Britain provide components and technology for the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), potentially flouting the 19-year-old ban on arms sales.
Its report, titled “Indian helicopters for Myanmar: making a mockery of the EU arms embargo?”, was compiled by European and international non-governmental organizations, including Saferworld, which works to prevent armed violence.
The document said the Indian-manufactured helicopter would not be operational without vital components from EU member states and highlights the urgent need for stricter arms controls.
It said variants of the ALH contain rocket launchers from Belgium; rockets, guns and engines from France; brake systems from Italy; fuel tanks and gearboxes from Britain and self-protection equipment from a Swedish firm. German firms, meanwhile, are said to have been “crucial” to the development of the aircraft’s design, while also manufacturing controls for the ALH’s engine.
“The EU embargo explicitly states that no military equipment should be supplied, either directly or indirectly, for use in Myanmar,” said Saferworld’s team leader on transfer controls and small arms, Roy Isbister. “What’s the point in having an arms embargo if it is not going to be implemented or enforced?”
The UN has described human rights violations in Myanmar as “widespread and systematic”, including summary executions, torture and the recruitment of child soldiers. Amnesty’s arms control researcher Helen Hughes said: “Greater attention has to be given to the end-use agreements and the re-export of components from EU member states. Otherwise, these states could find themselves indirectly propping up a brutal regime which they themselves have condemned and whose violations have amounted to crimes against humanity.”
The report says that US firms are also making military equipment for the ALH, despite a similar arms embargo. India doesn’t have such restrictions. The report calls on Brussels to immdeiately begin talks with India to prevent any future ALH sales, components or technology to Myanmar.
Amnesty called for all future production cooperation with India that could lead to banned items ending up in Myanmar to be discontinued, and any future arms deals with India to prohibit the transfer of the technology to Myanmar.