Amnesty International report finds arms companies failing to address human rights risks; incl. co comments

The defence sector plays an important yet often overlooked role in the supply of military goods and services to countries involved in committing human rights violations, argues Amnesty International. For their report "Outsourcing Responsibilty", the organisation contacted 22 arms companies asking them to explain how they meet their human rights responsibilties under internationally recognised standards such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights.

The report focuses on the eight companies that supply military equipment and services to the Saudi Arabia/UAE-led coalition party to the ongoing conflict in Yemen, and found that none were undertaking adequate human rights due diligence. Amnesty International is calling on defence companies to

  • vet clients’ past performance against human rights benchmarks;
  • build high expectations of compliance with international human rights law into contracts;
  • continuously monitor and periodically audit client performance; and
  • use leverage to influence the behaviour of clients.

The full report, as well as companies' responses to the report, are available below.

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9 September 2019

Arms companies failing to address human rights risks

Author: Amnesty International

For Outsourcing Responsibility, Amnesty International contacted 22 arms companies and asked them to explain how they meet their responsibilities to respect human rights under internationally recognized standards. Many of the companies investigated supply arms to countries accused of committing war crimes and serious human rights violations, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

None of the companies that responded was able to adequately explain how they meet their human rights responsibilities and demonstrate proper due diligence, and 14 did not respond at all...

Amnesty investigated 22 arms companies from 11 countries, including Airbus (Netherlands), Arquus (France), Boeing (USA), BAE Systems (UK), Leonardo (Italy), Lockheed Martin (UK), Raytheon (USA), Rosoboronexport (Russia), Thales (France), and Zastava (Serbia). A full list of responses is available here.

While the human rights obligations of states to regulate the international arms trade are now clearly defined under the Arms Trade Treaty and regional and domestic legislation, the crucial role of companies in the supply of military goods and services is often overlooked, despite the often inherently dangerous nature of its business and products...

BAE Systems described Amnesty International’s conclusions as “false and misleading”...

Leonardo said that Amnesty International’s conclusions were “not completely fair” ...

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9 September 2019

Companies' responses

A full list of responses is available here.

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9 September 2019

Outsourcing responsibility: Human rights policies in the defence sector

Author: Amnesty International

Every year corporate actors supply large volumes of military equipment to some of the most violent and unstable parts of the world. This equipment is often used unlawfully in the context of armed conflicts and in political unrest marred by serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law...

While Amnesty International acknowledges the key role of the state as the licensing authority for military goods and services, this report focuses on the role and separate human rights responsibilities of corporations involved in the arms trade. It examines the defence industry’s human rights responsibilities and the policies and procedures that the sector has in place for identifying, preventing, addressing or accounting for its human rights impacts...

Prior to publication, Amnesty International contacted the principle companies mentioned in this report, outlining its main findings and inviting responses...

States where companies are located or operate from have a vital role to play... Exports licences should only be issued to companies which can demonstrate that they have adequately assessed all human rights impacts of proposed exports, and have developed detailed plans to prevent and mitigate actual and potential human rights risks.

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