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July 31, 2014

Arms exports to nondemocratic states is growing

Czech Republic’s clients include many Middle Eastern countries, such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia

Prague, July 31 (ČTK) — Czech arms deliveries to nondemocratic regimes have been growing, and nearly half of the exports of Czech armament firms ended up in such countries, which is criticized by nongovernmental organizations, daily Lidové noviny (LN) writes today.

But the ministries responsible for Czech arms exports resolutely reject the criticism, the paper writes.

Among other countries, the Czech Republic exported arms, equipment and their parts to Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, according to data released by the Industry and Trade Ministry.

“The Czech Republic has been equipping various dictatorial regimes with arms for a long time, directly providing them with means to violate human rights,” the latest report released Wednesday by Social Watch writes.

Transparency International (TI) pointed out that the volume of arms exports more than tripled over the past 10 years, which also meant larger exports to states with a questionable level of democracy, LN writes.

TI has called on Foreign Affairs Minister Lubomír Zaorálek to thoroughly assess security risks when recommending the granting of arms export licenses.

“We believe Czech diplomacy should not sanctify cases of deals of military materiel to the detriment of the country’s human-right commitments and goals, which serve political and economic interests,” TI writes in a letter to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Arms export licenses are issued by the Industry and Trade Ministry based on recommendations by the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The Industry and Trade Ministry argues that all applications for a license are properly checked in the process.

“We decide on the license based on binding statements of the foreign affairs, interior and sometimes also the defense ministries. These ministries cooperate with the intelligence and police, from which they get enough information to assess whether the deal is risky,” Industry and Trade Ministry spokesman Miroslav Kyncl told the paper.

“We check not only the context of each case, but also the final recipient,” Zuzana Christofová, from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said.

Czech Association of Defense and Security Industry head Jiří Hynek also dismisses the criticism by NGOs.

“Czech exports do not even form 1 percent of all EU arms exports. We are not a key player that could influence the security situation,” Hynek said.

The biggest European arms exporters are Germany, Britain, Italy, France and Spain, he said.

Hynek said only 10 percent of Czech arms exports in 2013 were arms. Mostly aviation equipment, radar and passive surveillance systems and vehicles were exported, he added.

“Civilians were not threatened, even in cases when we really exported arms,” Hynek said.

He said in Egypt, Afghanistan or Yemen, citizens cannot be protected without weapons. In Egypt, exported pistols helped improve the security situation, he said.

Hynek said the arms were always delivered to the governing classes of the countries and did not fall into the hands of terrorist groups or armed rebel groups.

In 2013, the largest arms exports were to Vietnam (43.3 million euros), the United States (28.2 million euros) and Egypt (24.3 million euros). Within the EU, most arms are exported to neighboring Slovakia, Poland and Austria, the paper writes.

Two months ago, the Czech Republic signed an international treaty on arms exports that aims at limiting exports to nondemocratic regimes. The treaty was ratified by the Senate and it is being discussed in the Chamber of Deputies, whose committees recommended its ratification, LN writes.

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