In 1998 the EU adopted a code of conduct on arms sales containing eight criteria, including one of respect for human rights, and in 2013 the EU-28 signed the UN Arms Trade Treaty, which prohibits the trade in conventional arms to countries that violate human rights or that use the arms against their civilian populations. Despite this many European countries rank human rights in second place when it comes to arms trading, reports Svenska Dagbladet. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, no less than eleven European countries have sold heavy weapons to Saudi Arabia over the past five years.
Commercial interests, and the arms industry which generates thousands of jobs, far outweigh the risk that arms are being used to violate human rights and to torture people. Economic policy takes precedence over morality, jobs take precedence over war crimes, writes SvD.
Some argue that the arms trade strengthens security in critical regions, and that business is a way to influence countries in the right direction in terms of human rights. Other condemn the trade: spineless, ethically objectionable and in some cases illegal, argue the critics.
There are competing views, and the controversy over Sweden’s Saudi deal is unlikely to narrow the perception gap, concludes the newspaper.