Arms Sales to Sudan, 2004-2006
After five years of armed conflict, Darfur is awash in arms. The impact on the lives of ordinary people is devastating: the Sudanese government uses combat aircraft to bomb villages, destroying entire communities at once; militias armed with guns and rifles attack villages and camps killing civilians, men, women and children indiscriminately; and armed bandits attack humanitarian workers to steal supplies and vehicles. The proliferation of arms in Darfur even jeopardizes the work of the peacekeeping force as the deadly attacks against troops of the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) have demonstrated. According to recent reports, small arms have started to flood refugee and internally displaced persons' (IDPs) camps, endangering the inhabitants and giving the government of Sudan a pretext to attack the camps or force their closure.
The United Nations (U.N.) Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Darfur in 2004 which requires all governments to prevent the "sale or supply" of arms to all the warring parties in Darfur. The embargo also requires the Government of Sudan to seek permission before moving weapons to Darfur. The Sudanese government has publicly stated its intention to ignore the embargo and a U.N. panel charged with monitoring the embargo has documented multiple illegal transfers of weapons to Darfur. Nonetheless, with full knowledge that Sudanese President al-Bashir has been accused of committing genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Darfur, countries continue to transfer weapons to Sudan.
According to publicly available information, China is by far the largest arms supplier to Khartoum. However, China is not the only country guilty of arming Sudan. After a comprehensive review of publicly accessible arms trade data, Human Rights First (HRF) has identified more than over thirty countries that either exported arms directly to Sudan or manufactured arms that entered Sudan since the embargo took effect.
Summary of Findings(All figures are given in U.S. dollars, unless otherwise indicated)
Which countries are selling arms to Sudan?
Category 1, Direct Providers: The countries in this category voluntarily reported to official databases that they sold arms to Sudan since 2004. In many cases the trade figures are backed up by media reports of arms transfers or military cooperation agreements. When Human Rights First requested clarification of the reports, these countries failed to respond, with the exception of Cyprus and Slovakia.
- Direct Providers were (in alphabetical order): Belarus, China, Cyprus, India, Iran, Kenya, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain, and Turkey.
- Belarus sold Sudan 41 armored combat vehicles and 12 fighter jets since the year the U.N. arms embargo began.
- Sudan claims to have bought $55 million worth of weapons from China since 2004 while China claims to have sold Sudan just over $700,000. Since China and Sudan reportedly entered into a military cooperation agreement worth $80 million in 2005, the higher figure is likely closer to the true value.
- Cyprus sold approximately $130,000 worth of rifles, explosives, and other materiel from 2004-2006 to Sudan. In April 2008, Cyprus amended its domestic legislation to prohibit exports of sporting and hunting weapons to Sudan.
- In 2005, an Indian defense firm entered into contracts worth more than $17 million to provide battlefield surveillance radar, communication equipment and night vision equipment to the government of Sudan. Sudan also claims to have received over $1.5 million worth of armored fighting vehicles from India since 2004. India claims total arms sales to Sudan of just over $200,000.
- Iran reports total arms sales of over $12 million to Sudan, including almost $8 million worth of tanks.
- Kenya exported to Sudan over $30,000 worth of weaponry including tanks and small arms.
- Russia sold Sudan 33 new military aircraft since 2004, and has reportedly provided training, advisors and pilots for Russian aircraft in the Sudanese Air Force. Some Russian pilots have reportedly flown missions over Darfur.
- Senegal exported almost $6 million worth of ammunition and parts to Sudan since 2004.
- Turkey reports that it transferred over $120,000 worth of small arms and parts to Sudan since 2004, while Sudan reports receiving over $400,000 worth of weapons, including tanks.
Category 2, Producers: Countries listed in this category were reported by Sudan as the country of origin of imported arms. These countries did not report having sold arms to Sudan and some of them deny having transferred arms to Sudan. In some cases, It is likely that the items were transferred to Sudan by a third country. In any event, because the Darfur embargo requires states to take all possible measures to prevent arms from entering Darfur, states are responsible for ensuring that their wepaons do not reach Darfur either directly or indirectly, through third countries. Category 2 countries should investigate how arms originating in their countries ended up in Sudan, and what third parties were involved.
- Producers are Australia, Belgium, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and United States of America.
What has Sudan been buying?
- According to its own reports, Sudan imported weapons worth $76.3 million since 2004, not including fighter jets and combat aircraft.
- According to the reports of other countries, only $19.3 million worth of arms were sold to Sudan since 2004 (excluding aircraft), $57 million less than Sudan's reported imports. The discrepancy suggests that countries consistently underreport their exports to Sudan.
- Sudan's total estimated defense budget for the period 2004-2006 was over $1.4 billion. Sudan's reported arms imports amount to only 5.4% of that, while total worldwide exports to Sudan amount to only 1.3%. The total budget includes troop salaries and aircraft purchases, but even taking these expenses into account, the trade figures are far lower than the government's budgeted spending. This means that both Sudan's import figures and worldwide export figures seriously underestimate the extent of arms sales to Sudan, so that the transfers documented in this report card are a likely a mere fraction of Sudan's total purchases.
- Sudan has added at least 45 new military aircraft to its arsenal since 2004. Belarus and Russia provided combat aircraft, fighter jets, parts and training to the Government of Sudan. Other countries sold aircraft, but since it is not clear whether they were for military or civilian use they have not been included in this report card.
- According to Sudan's figures, it has purchased more than $25 million worth of tanks and armored combat vehicles (ACVs) since 2004. Sudan claims the ACVs came from China, Switzerland, Iran, Germany, India and Syria. Germany and Switzerland have denied the transfers.
- Since 2004, Sudan has self-reported a total of $29.5 million worth of imports of small arms and light weapons. China exported $26.3 million of this and only $3.2 million came from other countries. According to other countries' reports, only $1.8 million worth of small arms were exported to Sudan since 2004. A range of countries report selling almost $10 million worth of ammunition to Sudan since 2004. Sudan claims to have spent only $600,000 on ammunition in the same period.
- Sudan reports buying $270,000 worth of swords, cutlasses and bayonets made in China, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. These weapons are of concern because reports indicate that Janjaweed militias use machetes in attacks on civilians in Darfur.
About the Darfur Arms Embargo
The United Nations Security Council first imposed an arms embargo on Darfur in 2004 in response to the government-sponsored atrocities in the region. Resolution 1556 required states to "…take the necessary measures to prevent the sale or supply, to all non-governmental entities and individuals, including the Janjaweed, operating in the states of North Darfur, South and West Darfur, by their nationals or from their territories or using their flag vessels or aircraft of vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts for the aforementioned, whether or not originating in their territories." Resolution 1556 further required the Government of Sudan to disarm the Janjaweed; if Khartoum failed to do so the Council threatened additional sanctions. Resolution 1556 did not explicitly prohibit sales of arms to the Government of Sudan, but by 2004 it was clear that the Janjaweed militias—which carry out much of the violence in Darfur—were armed and supported by the Government of Sudan. All States should have realized that selling arms to Khartoum facilitated the supply of arms to the Janjaweed rather than preventing it as required by the embargo. As revealed in the report card, many States continued their transfers to Khartoum nonetheless.
As Khartoum failed to disarm the Janjaweed and the atrocities continued, the Security Council passed Resolution 1591, expanding the arms embargo to "…apply to parties to the N'Djamena Ceasefire Agreement [including the Government of Sudan] and any other belligerents in the states of North Darfur, South Darfur, and West Darfur." Resolution 1591 still does not explicitly prohibit the supply of weapons or related materiel to the Government of Sudan. However, it does prevent Khartoum from transferring arms into Darfur without prior approval from the Council's Sudan Sanctions Committee. Khartoum refuses to seek this approval and has repeatedly transferred weapons into Darfur in violation of the embargo. Faced with Sudan's defiance of the embargo, any country's continued weapons sales to the Government of Sudan—knowing that its weapons could and often do end up in Darfur—constitute a violation of the embargo.
The goal of this report card is to provide a summary of publicly available information on arms transfers to Sudan since 2004, the year the U.N. Security Council imposed the Darfur arms embargo. Human Rights First reviewed three publicly available trade databases: the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics database (Comtrade), the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms database (U.N. RoCA), and the Statistical database of the European Union (Eurostat). In addition, Human Rights First surveyed media reports and other publicly reported information to back up the database findings.
The report card looks at all categories of conventional weapons. However, Human Rights First did not include information on aircraft from the U.N. and E.U. databases because the database categories do not distinguish between military and civilian use aircraft. Information on aircraft is included only when reported to the U.N. Register of Conventional Arms or in independent reports.
The information contained in the databases is voluntarily self-reported by countries and is difficult to verify from other sources. Exporting countries generally do not publicly disclose the full extent of their arms transfers to Sudan to avoid the perception that they are supporting an abusive regime. Sudan, on the other hand, may have its own political reasons to misrepresent its arms purchases from particular countries, such as a desire to minimize the appearance of a relationship with an ally. Furthermore, the Comtrade database contains reports by both the exporting country and importing country, and the export and import figures rarely match up. A number of factors may explain the discrepancies, among them the differing definitions of what constitutes an import or export 'partner.' The government of Sudan defines its import partners as the countries of origin of the goods. They do not specify whether that country shipped the items directly to Sudan or whether the items came through a third party. Several of the countries contacted by Human Rights First about this information denied shipping goods directly to Sudan but conceded that their products may have ended up there by another route. For this reason, information reported by exporters is more reliable as most countries define their export partners as the "last known destination" of the goods.
Other factors that contribute to these discrepancies are the different categories used by different countries for similar goods; the possibility of incorrect categorization; and the fact that some categories cover both military and civilian use items. In addition, because Sudan is home to two separate peacekeeping missions and a host of other humanitarian endeavors, considerable military equipment is brought into the country to support peace operations. Human Rights First gave all governments multiple opportunities to respond to the findings of this report and several of them provided legitimate explanations for their arms shipments (see Annex). A number of governments expressed surprise that Khartoum had reported importing their goods and denied responsibility for the transfers. Some provided explanations, while others did not respond to Human Rights First's requests at all. Government responses are summarized in the report card.
Given the lack of transparent and accurate reporting and verification mechanisms, this report card should not be seen as a definitive catalogue of arms transfers to Sudan. Rather, it should be used to identify those countries whose arms are somehow getting to Sudan—and therefore, in many cases, to Darfur—either intentionally (category 1) or possibly unintentionally (category 2). These countries should be encouraged to review and fortify their arms xport policies and practices, to ensure that their weapons are not being used to perpetrate mass atrocities in Darfur.
The fact that more over 30 countries have directly or indirectly supplied arms or related materiel to the Government of Sudan since the Security Council established the Darfur arms embargo should be a serious concern. Human Rights First recommends that the countries included in the report card take the following steps:
- Immediately halt the supply, sale or transfer of arms and related materiel to the Government of Sudan and to all parties to the conflict in Darfur, including rebel groups.
- Review domestic export controls to ensure that robust end use certificate systems are in place to enable effective tracking of arms shipments, whether directly or through third parties.
- Publicly disclose all information pertaining to the supply, sale or transfer of arms and related material to the Government of Sudan and rebel groups operating in Darfur.
- Publicly denounce the transfer of arms and related materiel to any of the belligerent parties to the conflict in Darfur, including the Government of Sudan.
- Publicly and privately pressure the Government of Sudan and the governments that provide arms to rebel groups operating in Darfur to respect their obligations under Security Council Resolutions 1556 and 1591.