Brno, Czech Republic

Open letter of NESEHNUTÍ to the Minister of Industry and Trade, Mr. Jan Mládek, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Lubomír Zaorálek, regarding the export of Czech handguns and ammunition to the Egyptian police force
For the attention of: Political Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Václav Bálek Director of the Common Foreign & Security Policy Department of the EU at the Czech MFA, Ms Hana Hubácková

Dear Minister Mládek, dear Minister Zaorálek,

with great concern have we received the news that the Czech Republic is planning to sell 29,000 CZ-75 handguns and ten million pieces of 9mm-calibre ammunition to the Egyptian police. You are certainly aware that the European Union pledged in its position from August 21, 2013 to freeze all export licences for any equipment exported to Egypt that could be used for internal repression. Without any doubt, the aforementioned handguns and ammunition fall into this category. The European Union acted in response to the incident that took place on August 14, 2013 when an intervention of the Egyptian security forces against the camps of the Muslim Brotherhood caused the death of several hundred people. The long-term poor state of human rights in Egypt was also acknowledged by the Czech Republic when a short time ago it signed the joint declaration in the UN Human Rights Council expressing concern over the human rights situation in this country, including a disproportionate use of lethal force by the Egyptian security units against the demonstrators. For these reasons we would like to ask you to take all necessary steps to freeze the export of handguns and ammunition to Egypt.

Several international human rights organizations have been for a long time drawing attention to the continuous violation of human rights by the authorities in Egypt; the right to peaceful assembly is restricted, unarmed demonstrations are violently dispersed, attacks against human rights organizations have become more frequent and journalists are being imprisoned. In the words of Amnesty International: “In the past several months (after the toppling of Morsi), Egypt has witnessed so much state-inflicted violence and attacks on human rights as never before.” After all, the poor state of human rights in this country was recently acknowledged also by the Czech Republic at the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council when it signed together with other 26 countries a joint declaration expressing concern over the state of human rights in Egypt. The position literally states the following: “We express concern about the restrictions on the rights to peaceful assembly, expression and association, and about the disproportionate use of lethal force by security forces against demonstrators which resulted in large numbers of deaths and injuries.” The letter further calls for an immediate independent investigation into the incidents that involved deaths of the protesters. [1]

It is therefore quite regrettable that the Czech Republic, aware of such circumstances, allowed the sale of handguns and ammunition destined for the Egyptian police force. The responsibility for granting licenses for arms exports from the Czech Republic lies with the Ministry of Industry and Trade. The Ministry must nonetheless always acquire a positive opinion from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that takes into account the human rights aspect of the deal as well as adherence to the international commitments of the Czech Republic. We have thus decided to address you as the heads of the ministries responsible for granting the licence for the export of CZ-75 handguns and 9mm ammunition to the Egyptian police and ask you to answer the following questions:

Which guarantees do you have that the observance of human rights by the security forces in Egypt has improved since August 2013?

Based on which information do you assume that the reasons based on which the EU decided to freeze the arms export to Egypt have ceased to exist?

How will you ensure that the Czech handguns in the hands of the Egyptian police will not be misused for internal repression?

We call on you to take the steps leading to the cancellation of the export of these arms to Egypt. In our view, the export in question contradicts the aforesaid conclusions of the Council of the European Union on Egypt dated August 21, 2013[2] as well as the Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP, namely the second criterion of Article 1 that the EU member States similarly to the Council conclusions on Egypt “deny an export licence if there is a clear risk that the military technology or equipment to be exported might be used for internal repression.”

Also with respect to the above joint declaration that was signed by the Czech Republic in the UNHRC, we would like to draw your attention to the importance of consistency between the foreign and trade policies of the Czech Republic. We should avoid arming regimes that we simultaneously criticize for violating human rights. Preference should be given to the protection of human rights over our economic interests.

We are also ready to meet you should you be in the future interested in discussing with us the issue of Czech arms exports to countries where they could be used for internal repression, against civilian population etc.

Yours sincerely,

NESEHNUTÍ

Peter Tkác

 

THIS OPEN LETTER AND CALL ARE FURTHER SUPPORTED BY:

THIS OPEN LETTER AND CALL ARE FURTHER SUPPORTED BY:

Czech republic:

ADEPTTs — Advanced Development Technologies

Aliance žen s rakovinou prsu

Ceská ženská lobby — sít organizací hájících práva žen v Ceské republice

Ekumenická akademie

EUROSOLAR

Fórum 50 %

Iniciativa ProAlt, iniciativa pro kritiku reforem a na podporu alternativ

Social Watch

Svet bez válek a násilí

Germany:

Ohne Rüstung Leben

Netherlands:

Campagne tegen Wapenhandel

Slovakia:

Arms Watch Slovensko

Inštitút ludských práv

Switzerland:

GSoA — Gruppe für eine Schweiz ohne Armee

United Kingdom:

Campaign Against Arms Trade