Nicholas Gilby led CAAT’s efforts to expose the corruption at the heart of Britain’s arms deals with Saudi Arabia over the past four decades. In 2008 he defeated the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in an Information Tribunal to force the disclosure of many documents concerning corruption in Britain’s arms deals with Saudi Arabia. His research on arms trade corruption has been featured in The Guardian, BBC Newsnight and Al Jazeera.
In this blog anti arms trade writer and campaigner Nicholas Gilby, author of Deception in High Places – A History of Bribery In Britain’s Arms Trade, analyses 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.
Will the Arms Trade Treaty prohibit the sale of arms which might be used to violate human rights?
The short answer is no.
The Arms Trade Treaty sets out criteria for when arms exports should be prohibited (Article 6) and the criteria which should be used when deciding whether other arms exports should be permitted (Article 7).
In the past the authorities in the United States have been much more successful in prosecuting foreign bribery by their companies than the authorities in Britain.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s latest report on steps taken to implement and enforce the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in the United Kingdom is far more scanty than that for the United States (even after allowing for the fact the economy of the United States is much bigger than the UK’s). Further, since the Bribery Act 2010 came into force in the UK almost three years ago, there has been no conviction of anyone for foreign bribery under the Act. And last year, in 2013, there was only one conviction of someone for foreign bribery under the previous legislation. So how can the UK improve its record, and what should those wishing to see this happen do?
There are of course many moral reasons to oppose the arms trade. The sickening spectacle of executives such as Nicholas Prest and his shareholders, who profited handsomely from Alvis’s sale of armoured vehicles to Indonesia, used by the Indonesian Army in their horrific campaign of atrocities in Aceh in the early years of this century, is reason enough in many eyes.
Climate change is going to radically alter the global security environment in negative ways. As the UN notes “a warming world will place hundreds of millions of extra people at greater risk of food and water shortages and threaten the survival of thousands of species of plants and animals…floods, heatwaves, storms and droughts are all expected to increase, with people in poorer countries suffering the worst effects”. Most wars, both civil and international, take place in the poorer countries.
As the human race appears no more able to resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner than it has for centuries, the negative effects of climate change are certain to increase the amount of war, killing and suffering in the world in the decades to come. The existence of the international arms trade, and the arms companies which develop ever more destructive weapons system in their quest for more and more war profits is going to exacerbate this problem in many terrible ways.
On Thursday 15th March I am giving a talk to the very active Bristol CAAT group. Do come along if you can – details are here.
The subject is very topical – corruption. The title of my talk will be “the Ministry of Defence and the bribe culture: from active participation to passive complicity”.
It is easy to think in the current climate with the focus of corruption allegations very much on BAE Systems that the root of the problem lies with them alone. But the British Government is not as clean as it likes to point out.