US soldiers cover up against
weapons their government may
 have supplied Iraq

The renowned human rights lobbying group says evidence emerged during the build-up of the US-led war against Iraq that members of the current UN Security Council supplied arms and related materials to Saddam Hussein's government.

"If there is one lesson … from the Iraq conflict it is that we cannot allow the international community to supply arms to those who commit gross human rights violations, emboldening them and rewarding them so that the abusers act with impunity," said Brian Wood, Amnesty's international coordinator of arms control work.

G8 arms exporters

Amnesty has also accused the world's richest countries of supplying arms to many of the worst abusers of human rights.

Describing countries such as Israel, Colombia and Senegal as human rights abusers and importers of foreign arms, the group has released a report which shows at least two-thirds of all global arms transfers between 1997 and 2001 came from five of the G8 members - the United States, Russia, France, Britain and Germany.

Policing civilians, Israeli style

The report entitled "A Catalogue of Failures: G8 Arms Exports and Human Rights Violations" says the United States accounted for 28 percent of global arms transfers from 1997 to 2000, making it the world's top supplier of weapons.

Russia came in second at 17 percent, with France on 10 percent, Britain seven and Germany five percent.

These countries, along with fellow G8 members Italy and Canada, have agreed under numerous international accords not to export weapons if there is any risk of them being used in the abuse of human rights and have laws requiring military exports to be licensed.

"Yet in each case, (the) report shows how these controls have been ineffective, or bypassed," it said.

Call for regulation

Amnesty says it is calling for an international arms trade treaty to strengthen and harmonise national controls on the flow of arms to countries that abuse human rights.

The timing for the release of the report is significant. Leaders of the G8, the world's seven leading industrialised nations and the Russian Federation are meeting in Evian, France on 1 June for three days.

Starting 29 May 2003, Amnesty International, in partnership with other non-governmental organisations, will be holding an 'Alternative Summit', focusing on corporate responsibility, transfer of arms and human rights.

The G8 was set up in 1975 but still has no secretariat, no formal rules of procedure and meetings generally are of an informal nature. However, decisions reached at each G8 Summit meeting can have far-reaching effects on the whole world, according to Amnesty.