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Home > Human Rights & Humanitarian Law > Human Rights - Theory & Practice > Amnesty Launches Campaign Against Torture by United States - Clean Up Your Act

Human Rights - Theory & Practice

Source: New Internationalist, April 1999

"In armed conflicts since 1945, 90 percent of casualties have been civilians compared to 50 percent  in the Second World War and 10 percent in the First...

Governments and national leaders are often the most horrific perpetrators of violence. Torture occurs in more than 100 countries and is carried out as part of government policy in at least 40. And governments form a crucial part of the military industrial complex that is responsible for churning out the weapons and methods of war.

The United States is the world's biggest arms exporter - and supplies around 40 percent of the developing world's arms. Its military budget is as large as the next ten top spending countries combined. Its troop strength is 2.4 million. It is involved in escalating numerous conflicts outside its own borders, and on average the US has used arms abroad every year for the past 200 years. Its current rationale for high spending on defence includes declaration of 'war on terrorism'. Since 1980, on average, fewer than 10 Americans have been killed by terrorists per year.

Britain is the world's second largest arms exporter with a 25 per cent share of the legal global export market. Its military budget is the fifth largest in the world, with a troop strength of 240,000. Between 1990 and 1994, it supplied 13 percent of the total arms exports to sub-Saharan Africa - while at war from 1987 to 1994, Angola received $7.3 billion worth of British arms."

Meanwhile Reuters reported on 25 March 1999:

"Britain on Thursday released its first annual report on arms exports in line with the government's pledge not to sell guns to regimes that may use them for repression.

The Labour government has pledged not to issue arms export licences for sale to regimes that might use them for internal repression, human rights abuses or to prolong existing conflicts.....

The report detailed exports licenses granted by the government between May 1997, when it took power, and the end of that year....

Pressure groups such as Saferworld say Britain still sells arms to countries with blemished human rights records.... "The committees should, therefore, raise questions about exports of small arms to countries with poor human rights records, such as Bahrain, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Zimbabwe.''

The government figures showed it signed 19 standard individual export licences for arms sales to Bahrain in its first eight months in power, 47 to Sri Lanka, 111 to Turkey and 30 to Zimbabwe...."

And Fran Abrahams added in the Independent on 26 March 1999:

"The report showed that the UK had exported CS smoke pellets, stun grenades and submachine guns to Sri Lanka, where there were up to 100 extra judicial killings during the year from May 1997."

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