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Amnesty concerned by arms trade

Oct. 19, 2011 at 1:32 PM

LONDON, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Arms shipments to repressive regimes in the Middle East and North Africa were largely from the United States, Russian and Europe, Amnesty International said.

Amnesty International, in an assessment of arms transfers, referred to a "stark failure" of arms exports controls across the board. The rights group said that, before the Arab Spring, the United States, Russian and several European countries supplied huge quantities of weapons to repressive regimes in the region.

"Governments that now say they stand in solidarity with people across the Middle East and North Africa are the very same as those who until recently supplied the weapons, bullets and military and police equipment that were used to kill, injure and arbitrarily detain thousands of peaceful protesters in states such as Tunisia and Egypt and are even now being deployed by security forces in Syria and Yemen," said Helen Hughes, an arms trade researcher for Amnesty International.

Washington was criticized for delivering aid to countries known to use child soldiers, though the White House said the assistance was in the national interest. Meanwhile, the State Department said it was reviewing a multimillion-dollar arms deal with Bahrain because of human rights concerns.

Amnesty International named countries such as Bulgaria, Italy and Ukraine, meanwhile, as countries that provided military aid to Yemen this year, where it said some 200 protesters were killed.

The group said it recognized some steps were taken to restrict assistance to unsavory regimes, but Hughes noted many of the steps "are usually a case of 'too little too late' when faced with human rights crises."

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