Canada Sells Military Equipment to Colombian Armed Forces

Article excerpt

Gaping loopholes in Canada's export controls have authorized the sale of surplus Canadian military equipment to Columbia's armed forces, report Canadian human-rights and peace organizations. According to Amnesty International Canada, Project Ploughshares, the Inter-Church Committee on Human Rights in Latin America (ICCHRLA) and the Canadian Labour Congress, excess military equipment has been shipped through other countries to destinations where equipment may have been used to commit human-rights violations.

Reports indicate that some 40 surplus Canadian Huey helicopters were sold to the U.S. State Department between September, 1998 and February, 2000. Thirty-three of them are said to have been redirected to the Colombian police and military as part of a massive and controversial U.S. military aid package.

According to one White House report, the helicopters are to be used "to establish the security conditions needed" for so-called counter-narcotics operations. There are growing concerns, say the human-rights advocates, that the helicopters will be deployed in armed confrontations with insurgent forces, given that the lines between counter-narcotics and counterinsurgency are regularly blurred in Colombia.

"Counter-insurgency campaigns have already cost thousands of civilians their lives while many more have been forced to flee their land and homes," says Ken Epps of Project Ploughshares.

"The government must close the export loophole that allows our military equipment to be refurbished or used in manufacturing in other countries and then be transferred to another country without any control over the end use," Epps said. "Export controls must extend to the final destination of all military goods."

Amnesty International, the ICCHRLA and the Canadian Labour Congress are concerned that with Canadian military helicopters now in Colombia, Canada has become an accomplice in a military aid package that is already exacerbating a horrendous human-rights crisis. …