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Uzbekistan: Andijan massacre raises questions over UK arms trade

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  • Zafar Khan
    Andijan massacre raises questions over UK arms trade By Jerome Taylor Published: 27 April 2006 http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia/article360406.ece The
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 29, 2006
      Andijan massacre raises questions over UK arms trade
      By Jerome Taylor
      Published: 27 April 2006


      The British Government has failed to close a "massive
      loophole" in its arms trade laws which allowed the
      Uzbek authorities to use UK-designed vehicles in the
      Andijan massacre.

      More than 500 people were killed in May last year when
      Uzbek troops opened fire on protesters from two
      columns of armoured cars. Pictures emerged after the
      massacre showing that Defender vehicles, designed by
      Land Rover, were used by troops to fire on the crowds.
      The Defenders used in Andijan were manufactured by
      Otokar, a Turkish company, and donated to the Uzbek
      authorities by the Turkish government, but the chassis
      design and technology is British.

      A loophole in current legislation means the vehicles,
      some of which would be classified as military
      equipment and require a licence if sold directly from
      Britain, are not covered by arms export laws because
      they are not assembled in the UK.

      A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry
      said that while the Government took allegations of
      flaws in the UK export control regime seriously, the
      onward sale of Defender kits was beyond its control
      because the chassis are civilian technology.

      Land Rover has said the vehicles used in Andijan were
      "the same as that used by farmers and four-wheel drive
      enthusiasts" and that what happens to the vehicles
      after they have been sold is "clearly outside the
      control of Land Rover". But a former senior manager
      from Land Rover said many of the kits sold to Otokar
      incorporated a military chassis that would normally be
      licensable in the UK. But he did not know whether the
      Andijan vehicles had such chassis. "There is a
      military version," he said. "If we were actually to
      put the whole vehicle together on a military chassis
      in the UK and try and sell it to someone that would
      then be licensable."

      Neither Land Rover nor the Government has broken the
      law by selling equipment to Turkey but campaigners
      want the chassis licensed to stop countries such as
      Uzbekistan, now under an EU arms embargo, from
      obtaining British technology through third parties.
      Anna Macdonald, director of the control arms campaigns
      at Oxfam, said: "These vehicles are made from 75 per
      cent British parts, but simply by assembling them
      overseas, a company can completely avoid British
      export controls. The Government must urgently close
      this loophole, and... kick-start negotiations on an
      arms trade treaty. Whether a weapon comes in pieces,
      or is ready-made, the suffering it causes... is
      exactly the same."

      Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, expressed the UK's
      strong support for an international treaty at a speech
      to the Lord Mayor's Easter Banquet last night.

      Turkey has donated 50 Otokar Defenders, which can be
      fitted with an array of weaponry and armour, to
      President Islam Karimov's regime in Uzbekistan.

      Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK's director, said:
      "For years we have called for these loopholes to be
      closed. We saw at Andijan what happens when these
      calls are ignored."

      More on Uzbekistan at:
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