A human rights perspective on arms export licencing and access to information

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Arms export licensing has long been dominated by two rationales: an interstate perspective and intrastate perspective. In the former arms licensing enables trust-building between nations while the latter increases government accountability. A human rights perspective is overdue in arms export licensing. Victims and their defenders should be able to pursue effective remedy when harm is inflicted on them which implies a basic need for access to information. The access to information requires a proper weighing of interests between commercial confidentiality on the one hand and the public interest on the other. However, in practice there are several issues resulting in disproportionate refusals of arms export data such as, the non-disclosure of end user and/or end use information or alleged customs secrecy.

Vredesactie is a Belgian pluralistic peace movement aiming for a society in which conflicts are settled without violence or the threat to use violence.

Photo: North Arabian Sea (May 8, 2021) Thousands of illicit weapons interdicted by guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey. (U.S. Navy Photo).

This publication has been produced with the financial assistance of the Belgian Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD). The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of Vredesactie and IPIS and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the Belgian Development Cooperation.