Might the Arms Trade Treaty be useful in stopping the worst arms exports?

Two members of the Control Arms campaign – Amnesty International and Saferworld – are to be congratulated on commissioning an expert legal opinion to assess the lawfulness of the authorisation by the United Kingdom of weapons and related items for export to Saudi Arabia in the context of Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen.

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Is the UK’s arms trade with Saudi Arabia a breach of the Arms Trade Treaty?

Is the UK Government now ignoring Arms Trade Treaty obligations by continuing to trade arms with repressive regimes?  This was the question asked by the Control Arms campaign on 16 January 2015.  They think the answer is yes, but unfortunately it appears to be no, as I will explain.

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Addressing some misconceptions about the Arms Trade Treaty

The Arms Trade Treaty came into force on 24 December 2014.  At the time of writing the Treaty has been signed by 131 states and ratified by 61.  I want to try and clear up some misconceptions about the Treaty that have been aired in the commentaries surrounding its the entry into force.

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Punishing corporate crime: Review of Brandon Garrett’s Too Big To Jail

Professor Garrett has written an important book about a topic – corporate crime – that may not be a top concern of the ordinary person, but is arguably as important a topic as the type of crime (those against the person) that ordinary people do care about.  For instance, in Britain fraud on its own costs the country an estimated £73 billion per year.

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A new and better way for British arms export licensing: presumption of denial

The British export licensing system depends on a “risk assessment” officials make at the time an export licence decision is made.  It is totally ill-fitted to how the world actually works, chiefly because weapons and weapon systems have a shelf-life far longer than the validity of the official risk assessment.

So what would a new and better way look like?

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Review of Putin’s Kleptocracy by Karen Dawisha

Professor Karen Dawisha’s new book Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who owns Russia? promised much.  According to the blurb on the jacket it “describes Putin’s rapid rise to power, the cabal he brought with him, the oligarchs they have created, the billions they have looted…she reveals a deeply corrupt country ruled by a thieving regime”.  Further, Cambridge University Press “declined to publish it for fear of running afoul of libel laws in the U.K.” (p.351) and indeed the current publisher, Simon & Schuster, has only published it in the US.  But in the age of the internet, it can easily be acquired by anyone in the UK.

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Why Britain should not join American and French airstrikes against ISIS

The American President Barack Obama has announced he intends to “degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL”, including “a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists”. The French have now announced they will join the airstrikes too.

So far the British Government has not said whether or not it will join in.  But David Cameron is bound to come under such pressure now the French and Americans have decided to launch an air campaign, especially as leading backbenchers such as former Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox have called for Britain to launch military action.

So is this a good idea?  Should Britain join in?

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The Gaza conflict and British arms exports: a case study in lamentable decision-making

Just over two weeks ago, I questioned whether there was a review of British arms export licences for Israel, in the wake of the recent conflict in Gaza. About one week ago the British Government announced the findings of its review of licensed exports to Israel. It sets out the lamentable Ministerial decision-making around export licences for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, even by the standards that the Government sets itself.

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Interview with journalist and author Mark Metcalf

You can read a recent interview I gave to journalist and author Mark Metcalf.

Interview in the Daily Record

The Daily Record has published an interview with me about the arms trade. (By the way I would not claim to be an “industry expert”.)