07/19/2007versione stampabileprintinvia paginasend



The Indian government violates the embargo on selling arms to the Burma dictatorship
The announcement comes from NGOs such as Amnesty International, Saferworld, and the Italian Network for Disarmament: India is circumventing a 1988 European embargo on furnishing military weaponry and hardware to the dictators of Burma.

An F104 jetIndia, which shares an unstable frontier region with the Burmese regime, is sending light “ALH” helicopters to the Myanmar government, which may intend to use them against rebellious populations in the Karen and Shan provinces. In response, a French NGO named Info Birmanie has announced, “European Union nations must respect their commitment to prevent EU-produced military equipment from being used by the Myanmar regime by demanding that the Indian government halt their sale of the ALH helicopters”. Helen Hughes, arms control expert for Amnesty International, demands that, “more attention must be given to the so-called agreements on the final use and re-exportation of military components produced by EU member states.”

Tornados Tornado Fighters from Six EU Countries. “This type of light helicopter is composed of 29 different components,” explains Luigi Barbato of the Italian office of Amnesty International, “It is hard to trace back all the pieces that go into a war machine. What’s lacking is sanction power on a European level. The EU imposed an embargo in 1988, but has no power to enforce it. We need a global approach to the problem. Military hardware is a global industry; components produced in many countries go into a final product.” Six of the 29 components of the ALH helicopter are produced in Europe:
Belgium, missile launchers from dForgues de Arbrugge;
France, motors from Turbomecca, guns from Giat, missiles from Matra Bae Dynamics;
Germany, motor components from Sitec Aerospaces;
United Kingdom, hydraulic systems from Apph Precision Hydraulics, Ltd; fuel tanks and transmissions from Gkn Westland;
Sweden, self-defense equipment from Avitronic;
Italy, braking systems from Elettronica Aster.

Indian Ahl helicoptersItalia? Barlassina, in the province of Varese, halfway between Milan and Malpensa Airport. A small company, but an imposing list of clients (www.elaster.it), including Oto Melara, Alenia, Finmeccanica, Eurofighter (which builds Tornado and F104 fighter jets), Agusta Westland (combat helicopters), and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, which produces the ALH.
“We only make one little component for them,” Elettronic Aster’s chief of relations with India, Giuseppe Vigo, explains to PeaceReporter “the rotor braking system for when the helicopter is on the ground. It’s a simple safety device that has nothing to do with war. The helicopter is also used for civilian purposes, but if they adapt it to other uses. . . If I sold them a car, and they decide to mount a machine gun on it, it’s hardly my fault.” Flawless logic. Other company spokespeople further sweeten the dose: “Understand that this company produces nothing that can be considered part of the weapons industry, we don’t make armaments,” affirms Edoardo Cupolo, Assistant to the Director General. “Everything we make has to pass the approval of the Defense Department, which certifies that it won’t end up in irresponsible hands. Also the Foreign Affairs Ministry, as established by Law 185 (Uama Regulations on Armament Authorizations, a law passed July 9, 1990). According to 185, every customer is obligated to present a certificate guaranteeing the final use of each of our components.”
Barbato of Amnesty International explains, “The problem isn’t small companies like Aster with 130 workers, but comes from Brussels. The EU has to oversee the usage of components from Italy and all Europe. We sell to countries who then re-sell our products to unauthorized third countries. Only Europe as a united entity can insist that its customers not transfer its products to countries such as Burma, which probably intends to use them to persecute its ethnic minorities.” 
 
Gianluca Ursini