We illustrate the unsound reasoning behind this crime with this ”thought experiment”: Dynamic Systems in Linköping is a successful weapons manufacturer. Their products include state of the art semi-automatic and fully automatic firearms. It has recently been revealed that firearms, for several million Swedish Crowns, have been sold to a motorcycle gang called the Wild Riders, of Gothenburg. The transaction is for automatic weapons and listening devices. The Wild Riders have been found guilty for extortion, battery, and murder.
– I welcome this deal. It is good business for the municipality. We will do whatever we can to support Dynamic System when it comes to public relations and anything else, says Municipal Director Nils Fredlund in Linköping.
But aren´t you worried that these advanced weapons systems will be used for criminal activities by this infamous gang of bikers?
– Neither Dynamic Systems nor Linköping’s municipality may be held responsible for what the buyer does with the product. Also, I am convinced that Wild Riders will make a positive contribution to safety in the Gothenburg area, says Nils Fredlund.
Fortunately, the above scenario is fictional. But unfortunately, worse things happen in real world transactions that are in many aspects similar to the example above – namely that Swedish arms are exported to dictatorships. Sweden is today one of the world’s largest arms exporters per capita. An ever increasing share of arm’s export from Sweden goes to countries where people are not allowed to choose their political representatives in free elections. In 2012 more than a third of Swedish military equipment was sold to non-democratic regimes. It is, unfortunately, not only the lack of democracy that is the problem in dictatorships. Dictatorships are maintained by imprisonment of dissidents, the use of torture and other serious human rights violations.
In February and March 2011, tens of thousands demonstrated for democracy in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Its dictatorial regime hit hard. Police and security forces imprisoned peaceful demonstrators, fired sharp ammunition into the crowds and tortured captives. In some cases they also beat hospital staff who had given medical services to the opposition. In March 2011, Saudi Arabia aided the government of Bahrain with 4,000 troops and 200 military vehicles to help Bahrain crack down the uprising democracy. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry has documented that at least twenty people were killed by the regime during the protests. The opposition estimated the number of fatalities to be 88 people, including 41 who died of tear gas.
Swedish law requires a license to sell weapons. It is the authority’s, ISP (Inspektion för Strategiska Produkter or the Swedish Agency for Non-proliferation and Export Controls) responsibility to determine if a license is granted or not. The Swedish Parliament advises the ISP in the forming of guidelines for the export of weapons. One guidelines says that permission for export “should not be granted to a state in which widespread and serious violations of human rights occur”. Despite the gross violations described above, the agency has granted permission for arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain both before and after democratic uprisings. For example ISP gave fourteen export licenses for deliveries to Saudi Arabia in 2013. In addition, Sweden formed a government agency, Defence and Security Export Agency (FXM), in 2010, whose goal is to make it easier for Swedish arms companies to sell their products abroad.
If a municipality has actively supported the arms companies selling of weapons to criminal gangs, then this would at least lead to dismissals. Those responsible would probably also have been indicted for larceny, and possibly for aiding and abetting of murder, if they supplied the weapons for this. However, it is far more serious that Swedish authorities not only agree but also actively support sales of arms to a foreign state that murders and tortures their citizens and the citizens of other countries.
Because of the aforementioned reasons, we currently are registering a police report on the Agency ISP for complicity in violence (murder / attempted murder / assault) against peaceful protesters in Bahrain. It would be unreasonable if no one could be held accountable for this arms trade on the grounds that the crime occurred across national boundaries. Today, a large part of arms exports is classified, making a police investigation even more urgent. We urge the police to promptly investigate exactly which products have been sold from Sweden and how these have been used in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
Sayed Muhamed, vice president for Bahrain Salam for Human Rights
Annika Spalde, active member of Kristna fredsrörelsen (The Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation)
Martin Smedjeback, active member for the organization OFOG
Lena Steinholtz Ekecrantz, active member of Kvinnor för Fred (Women for Peace)