Tuesday, August 16, 2016

UN report claims Canadian company violated UN arms embargo on Libya

A report from a UN panel says that armoured vehicles from the Streit Group shipped armoured personnel carriers to Libya from its Mideast facilities several years ago, in violation of an international arms embargo.

The March 2016 report was drawn up by experts who are monitoring compliance with the UN security council arms embargo imposed back in 2011. The Streit Group is owned by Guerman Goutorov, a Canadian citizen, who resides in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Streit Manufacturing is located in Innisfil Ontario. The finding will no doubt spark further debate about Ottawa's policy with respect to arms shipments.
The Liberal government of Justin Trudeau has been carrying on a policy of exporting arms that is similar to that of the former Stephen Harper Conservative government as a recent article in the CBC claims. The article points out that the Liberal government approved selling $11 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia: The document, signed by Foreign Affairs Minister St├ęphane Dion, is a gem of hair-splitting, parsing, wilful blindness and justification for selling billions worth of fighting vehicles and weaponry to Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive regimes on Earth.
In 2012 when the Streit shipment happened, such transfers of armoured personnel carriers to Libya required advance approval from the UN sanctions committee that oversaw the embargo. However, the UN was not even notified of the delivery before it happened. Dion's office left comment on the issue to the Department of Global Affairs. A spokesperson for that department, Amy Mills, said that Ottawa was in no way responsible for shipments between two foreign countries such as the UAE and Canada, even if there is a connection to Canada:“This is ‎an export exclusively from the United Arab Emirates to Libya, which is outside of Canada’s export-controls jurisdiction. There is no information to suggest otherwise.”
Nevertheless, Canadian diplomats in the UAE have been publicly supportive of Streit. Claudio Ramirez, who worked at the Canadian embassy in Abu Dhabi in 2015 announced on Twitter when the Streit Group expanded a UAE factory, that Arif Lalani Canadian ambassador to the UN spoke supportively of the "Canadian company" whose armoured vehicles he claimed once protected him.
Ken Epps, of Project Ploughshares, claimed that Canada was shirking its responsibilities with respect to the overseas defense operations of Canadians. He claimed that laws and regulations enacted by the Canadian government set penalties for Canadian citizens even outside Canada when UN arms embargoes are breached. The Canadian government is more interventionist when it comes to other business areas such as mining and energy operations. If ethics rules are violated the companies will be denied trade-promotion services.
The Streit company insists it did nothing wrong in that it had received export approval from the UAE. The company told the UN experts that it rejected any suggestion that the Streit Group knowingly or otherwise broke international law and pointed out the shipment was in complete accord with the UAE laws and regulations. The company had been warned about shipment of at least 79 Typhoon and Spartan patrol vehicles to Libya in 2014 but went ahead anyway. The shipments were "donations" brokered through one American company and three in the UAE.
The situation is complicated by relaxation of the regulations and even disagreement among the UN "experts" as to their application but the report noted:
“Continuous violations … are having a negative impact on the security situation in Libya and its political transition: better-equipped armed actors may be less inclined to agree to ceasefires or to accept the authority of the future government of national accord and its security arrangements.”
Streit has already been fined by the US government for exporting armoured vehicles without proper approvals: In September of 2015, the government agency responsible for enforcing American export controls announced it had imposed a $3.5-million fine on Streit Group affiliated companies and two corporate officers for completing at least nine unlicensed transfers, or sales, of U.S.-made armoured vehicles to foreign countries between 2008 and 2009. Of this penalty, $1.5 million was suspended.
The Streit Group was also criticized by the panel for the export of 173 Cougar and Typhoon armoured troop carriers to South Sudan in 2014. Alex Neve, of Amnesty International Canada said of some of the Streit shipments:"When we're talking about arms deals with countries like South Sudan and Libya, that raises very serious red flags. There is absolutely no question that a decision to sell arms, in the context of those two countries, contributed either directly or indirectly to the worsening human rights situation in both of those countries and simply should not have been something the company considered to do at all."

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