More Weapons for Iraq Security Forces Likely Missing, Amnesty International Says In Wake of GAO Report

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A recent Government Accountability Office report revealed that the Pentagon cannot account for 30 percent of the weapons that the United States distributed to Iraqi forces from 2004 to early 2007...


WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A recent Government Accountability Office report revealed that the Pentagon cannot account for 30 percent of the weapons that the United States distributed to Iraqi forces from 2004 to early 2007. According to Amnesty International research, additional hundreds of thousands of U.S. approved arms transfers from Bosnia to Iraq could also be missing. Amnesty International fears this shipment may be in the hands of human rights abusers inside or outside Iraq .

In a May 2006 report, Dead on Time http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engact300082006, Amnesty International revealed that Taos Inc., a U.S. company with multiple U.S. Department of Defense contracts, subcontracted to a Moldovian/Ukrainian company called Aerocom to transport hundreds of thousands of arms from Bosnia to Iraq between July 31, 2004 , and June 31, 2005 , for Iraqi security forces. U.S. military air traffic controllers in Iraq , however, said Aerocom never requested landing slots to touch down in the country. Aerocom smuggled weapons to Liberia in 2002 and was operating without a valid license in 2004, according to the U.N. Security Council.

Colby Goodman , program manager for Amnesty International's child soldiers and arms transfers program, is available to discuss the report and give background information.

In a series of exchanges with the Pentagon, Amnesty International has noted that various U.S. government department contracts contain a clause stipulating that actors previously involved in criminal activities should not be recipients of U.S. government funding. Amnesty International has previously expressed concern about the U.S. Department of Defense's new authority to train and equip security forces in Iraq and 16 other countries. The latest system does not have the same level of controls as other U.S. arms exporting mechanisms. Without similar safeguards, the Pentagon runs the risk of facilitating illegal or irresponsible arms deals to anywhere in the world.

Chronology of Correspondence with the Department of Defense

May 2006

AI released a report mentioning an episode in which Taos Inc. subcontracted U.S. government-funded arms transportation contracts to Aerocom. Four Aerocom flights departed Eagle Base, Bosnia & Herzegovina, with flight plans filed for Baghdad International Airport, Iraq . Yet there were no records of the flights landing. Taos Inc. executives told Amnesty International that Aerocom did not appear on any U.S. government list that forbid interaction with the company, placing the onus on the U.S. government to determine whether an arms transporter/broker meets the requisite security, integrity and ethical standards.

September 28, 2006

Amnesty International contacted the U.S. Department of Defense requesting information on the current policies and regulations which attempt to prevent arms transactions with actors with criminal records, as well as measures currently under discussion which may assist in limiting the involvement of such actors in future U.S. government contracts.

April 6, 2007

Amnesty International received a reply from the U.S. Department of Defense to its September letter indicating the Pentagon's intent to investigate whether the U.S. Department of Defense was involved in contracting arms shipments from Bosnia to Iraq . The Pentagon indicated that it had already conducted an assessment to determine whether controls governing U.S. Department of Defense contracted arms shipments need to be updated.

May 17, 2007

Amnesty International wrote to the U.S. Department of Defense concerning oversight and control of several legal arms shipments to Iraq and Afghanistan .

August 2007

Amnesty International is still awaiting a reply from the Pentagon regarding its investigation into the Bosnia-to-Iraq weapons shipments and steps the U.S. Department of Defense is taking to prevent similar irresponsible arms transactions.

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