Study examines arms trade and corporate legal responsibility for arms exports linked to human rights abuses

Author: Christian Schliemann, Linde Bryk, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Published on: 10 January 2020

"Arms trade and corporate responsibility: Liability, litigation and legislative reform", November 2019

This study ... asks how ... and whether arms manufacturers and exporters, as well as government officials licensing these exports, can be held to account when exported weapons are used to commit or facilitate violations of international human rights and humanitarian law...

[N]ot enough attention is paid to considerations of international human rights and humanitarian law... [I]t is important to also consider the arms trade from an (international) criminal law perspective and through the lens of business responsibilities. Criminal court cases and OECD NCP instances indicate a tendency towards heightened standards when it comes to holding arms traders and government official accountable... Much needs to be done, however, to achieve an effective regulatory arms export control regime that is subject to adequate judicial review by administrative courts and allows for the possibility to establish criminal liability in cases in which exported arms were subsequently used to commit or facilitate violations of international human rights or humanitarian law...

[B]uilding on the UNGPs and the OECD Guidelines makes it possible to [...] clarify the scope and elements of due diligence obligations in the arms sector and the relationship between business risk assessments and government authorizations...

[I]ncorporating mandatory corporate human rights due diligence – including for the arms sector – in national legislation [...] is warranted. Similarly, domestic arms control laws should incorporate corporate human rights due diligence...

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