Governments of Central and Eastern European countries have been selling an “unprecedented” amount of weapons and ammunition to the Middle East in recent years, fueling armed conflicts in the troubled region, a new report claims.
According to the findings by a team of reporters from the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a group of European countries led by Croatia and the Czech Republic have been channeling their arms to the region since 2012.
Since then, they have gained over US$1 billion from such sales, despite some of the weapons ending up in the hands of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists, according to the report, which was published earlier on Wednesday.
The report, titled ‘Making a Killing: The 1.2 Billion Euros Arms Pipeline to Middle East,’ is the result of a year-long investigation.
It reveals “for the first time” that dozens of airplanes have been taking off from airfields in Eastern Europe, carrying deadly cargo “to Middle Eastern states and Turkey which, in turn, funneled arms into brutal civil wars in Syria and Yemen.”
Governments of the selling countries have been well aware of where their exports are ending up, the report claims.
“Arms export licenses, which are supposed to guarantee the final destination of the goods, have been granted despite ample evidence that weapons are being diverted to Syrian and other armed groups accused of widespread human rights abuses and atrocities,” the report states, adding that experts who reviewed the evidence collected during the investigation agreed the trade was “almost certainly illegal.”
“The evidence points towards systematic diversion of weapons to armed groups accused of committing serious human rights violations. If this is the case, the transfers are illegal under the ATT (United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty) and other international law,” said Patrick Wilcken, an arms control researcher at Amnesty International, as quoted by the report.