Sunday, 26 May 2013

Arming the armed opposition in Syria – 10 questions

This was a tweet from the UK Government  a couple of days ago.  I've posted previously on the “arming the opposition” issue and discussed the matter with UK Government officials however many questions remain.

Here are 10 questions for the UK government (and other governments) to consider ahead of any possible decisions to relax the EU arms embargo on Syria. They essentially ask what adequate safeguards would the UK Government put in place to ensure any arms transferred would not be used to commit human rights abuses. 

1.        How would the UK Government assess a potential arms transfer to Syria against 1) its own criteria and 2) the EU code of conduct?

2.        How would the UK Government assess and determine which armed opposition groups would receive any transfer of conventional arms and can they name these armed groups?

3.        How would the UK Government assess the knowledge it has at the time of any possible authorization that the arms or items would be used in the commission of international crimes including war crimes, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances or torture?

4.        How would the UK Government monitor and verify the use of the conventional arms transferred?

5.        What measures would be put in place to prevent the theft, diversion or movement of an arms transfer from the designated end-user to an unauthorised end-user (such as a different armed opposition group)?

6.        What type of undertaking would the UK Government stipulate of the designated end-user that the conventional arms will not be subsequently re-transferred to another user (for example a different armed group in another part of the country)?

7.        What measures would the UK Government put in place to ensure a strict system of registration, storage and accountability for the use of the arms transferred?

8.        What post-shipment verification mechanism(s) would the UK Government put in place and exactly how would the UK Government envisage these working?

9.        How would the UK Government ensure adequate training is provided to the designated end-users to ensure the conventional arms are used in accordance with international law?

10. What is the likelihood of an arms race occurring from increased arms supplies to the armed opposition?

I'm sure there are many more questions including ones relating to future stabilisation plans, DDR for instance. There will also be many rebuttal questions such as "how are people meant to defend themselves against a regime that is being armed anyway?" For now I've tried to keep these questions focused in relation to current UK government media and political messaging on the issue.


Here I am on BBC making several of these points:

Amnesty International Statement: EU Declaration on Arms Transfers to Syria 31 May 2013 (PDF) 


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