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HRW criticises deficient arms trade control

INTERNATIONAL watchdog group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Slovakia should strengthen its regulations and parliamentary controls over the arms trade, the SITA news wire wrote.

The country must set stricter criteria for issuing licenses for trading arms and more closely monitor the actual destination of cargo containing weapons, the HRW warned.

According to the group, Slovakia has continued to be involved in trading arms with human rights abusers. The report cites specific cases of disputable arms trade transactions from the past.

In 2000 and 2001, international smuggling rings abused loopholes in arms trade controls and sent military helicopters to Liberia, which is under a UN embargo. Officially, the helicopters came to Slovakia for repair, but loopholes in the arms trade legislation enabled their further export to Liberia.

In 2001 the Slovak government approved the export of surplus military jets to Angola, which, according to the HRW report, was also in contravention of the EU Code for Arms Export. The trade was discovered through investigations into corruption and conflict of interest.

The report also mentions another case in which Iranian cargo containing anti-tank munitions was seized at Bratislava's airport. The investigation into this case is still underway.

The final case mentioned by the HRW report occurred in 2002 when Slovakia exported nine D-90 cannons and six rocket launchers to Uganda, which is responsible for the continued fighting in the neighbouring Congo and the death of more than 3 million people.

Slovak authorities responsible for the arms trade said that the cases mentioned in the report would not have been stopped, even if stricter controls were introduced.

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