A new report released by Amnesty International yesterday revealed how a British-based company acted as an intermediary in huge prospective arms deals to war-torn South Sudan and other countries.
The deal, according to the advocacy group, was facilitated by regulatory gaps which are making the UK a hotspot for companies involved in illicit arms transfers.
Amnesty International found that commercial documents named S-Profit Ltd, a tiny UK-registered company, as the ‘supplier’ in a 2014 deal to provide at least US$46m worth of small arms, light weapons and ammunition to the South Sudanese government.
The report entitled, From London to Juba: a UK-registered company’s role in one of the largest arms deals to South Sudan, the report reveals that the UK government has been aware of similar practices taking place on British soil for more than eight years, without taking effective regulatory action.
“South Sudan is awash with weapons that have been used to kill and maim thousands of civilians, causing Africa’s biggest refugee crisis. The UK government has been a vocal proponent of a UN arms embargo on South Sudan, yet is turning a blind eye to illegal deals taking place right under its nose,” said James Lynch, Amnesty International’s Head of Arms Control and Human Rights.
“Glaring gaps in UK company regulation mean a dealer of illicit arms can go online and set up a UK company to front its activities with fewer checks than joining a gym or hiring a car. The UK must urgently review its company registration procedures – right now it provides the perfect conditions to become a hotspot for the kind of irresponsible arms transfers that have devastated South Sudan.”
The rights group pointed out that the weapons in question form part of a previously undisclosed 2014 contract between a Ukrainian state arms company and a UAE-based company to procure US$169m of weapons on behalf of South Sudan. These include thousands of machine guns, mortars, RPGs and millions of rounds of ammunition.
It said the total deal constitutes one of the largest publicly disclosed arms transfers to South Sudan since the outbreak of fighting in December 2013.
Amnesty International said it has not been able to determine whether some or all of the weapons listed in these documents have yet been delivered to South Sudan.
The involvement of the Ukrainian state-owned arms company and a UAE private company in weapons supplies to South Sudan also potentially contravenes the Ukraine and UAE’s obligations as signatories to the Arms Trade Treaty, according to Amnesty International.
S-Profit’s director, a Ukrainian national based outside the UK, denied to Amnesty International that the firm had supplied military products to South Sudan, but has not responded to further questions, including whether it played an intermediary role.
“S-Profit Ltd’s company filings give no indication of its involvement in the arms trade – but then UK law does not require them to. This kind of weak regulation is seriously undermining the other robust domestic, EU and international controls which should make any UK involvement in arms transfers to a war zone like South Sudan unimaginable,” said James Lynch.
“If they have not already reached South Sudan, these deliveries must be halted. In the meantime, we continue to call for a comprehensive UN arms embargo on South Sudan that includes any brokering, financial or logistical activities that would facilitate these kinds of transfers. Without an embargo, weapons will continue to flow into South Sudan, and the consequences for civilians will continue to be catastrophic,” he further said.