Germany's Heckler & Koch to stop selling guns to Israel

Weapons manufacturer report says it won't sell its guns to active war zones.

September 20, 2017 13:07
2 minute read.
A man holds a G 36 KA rifle manufactured by Heckler & Koch

A man holds a G 36 KA rifle manufactured by Heckler & Koch. (photo credit: REUTERS/RALPH ORLOWSKI)


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German weapons manufacturer Heckler & Koch will no longer sell guns to countries that are corrupt or into war zones, including Israel.

Heckler & Koch produces handguns, military rifles and submachine guns. It quietly adopted a policy to make it difficult to obtain export permits from the German government when dealing with a number of countries around the globe.

Countries in the gun manufacturer’s ban include Israel, Mexico, Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia and all African countries.

The company quietly announced the move in a side note in its most recent annual report. It will now only sell to “green countries,” which it defines according to three criteria: being a NATO-member or “NATO-equivalent” (Japan, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand); Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index; and the Economist Intelligence Unit’s democracy index.

Heckler & Koch did not respond to an inquiry regarding why Israel was placed on the list, and the German Economy Ministry told The Jerusalem Post in an email that while it is aware of the media reports on the change, “we don’t comment on company trials or decisions.”

According to The Guardian, the move makes Heckler & Koch the first arms company to have a “more ethical” export control policy than its national government.

Germany, the world’s fifth-largest weapons exporter with €6.85 billion ($8.22b.) in sales last year, is in a two-year pilot phase of an initiative to monitor the end use of its arms exports.
Netanyahu says Israel Naval submarine contract with Germany is only for strengthening security , amid corruption probe , Nov.23.16 (credit: REUTERS)

“We are assessing whether the weapons delivered are still held by the final user named [during the original sales],” Andreas Obersteller, president of the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA), told The Rheinische Post earlier this month.

The company faced harsh criticism last year, when it was accused of illegally exporting close to 9,500 G3 assault rifles to Mexico between 2003 and 2011 and a report from the Customs Criminal Office in Cologne accused the company of delivering around 4,800 guns to countries to which exports are banned due to suspected police corruption and human rights abuses.

According to reports, company directors have promised to consider setting up a compensation fund for victims of its guns. “We can also understand moral criticism of such exports,” Die Welt quoted an unnamed company manager as saying.

Arms produced by Heckler & Koch are estimated to have killed more than 2 million people since it was founded in 1949, including Osama bin Laden, whom US Navy SEALs killed in 2011, using a version of the company’s HK416 assault rifle.

Benny Weinthal contributed to this report.

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