“I am terribly disappointed to see exports to dictatorships soaring. It is a radical increase compared to previous years, despite the Riksdag’s decision from last year to tighten arms export rules,” said Anna Ek, head of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, SPAS, (Svenska Freds), to daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).
The figures show that Swedish companies in 2011 exported defence materials worth 13.9 billion kronor ($2.1 billion), staying more or less on the same level as the previous year.
Swedish arms sales to Thailand, Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates made up 60 percent of the sales in 2011.
37 percent went to other EU countries and established cooperation nations such as the US, Canada and South Africa, according to ISP.
“In 2011 it was the export of Jas 39 Gripen fighter jets to Thailand and the airborne surveillance system Erieye to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan,” wrote the director general of ISP, Andreas Ekman Duse in a DN editorial.
But Ek blames Swedish minister for trade Ewa Björling for the fact that the majority of arms sales go to undemocratic countries or dictatorships.
“Björling says that she feels comfortable with how the ISP deals with it. I am guessing the regimes of these countries are also feeling comfortable,” said Ek to DN.
Björling did not want to comment on the propriety in selling arms to countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, pointing to how the Swedish Agency for Non-proliferation and Export Controls is an independent agency which, together with the Export Control Council, a special parliamentary advisory body, weighs together all factors, of which human rights is one.
“Sometimes they reach the conclusion to allow export and sometimes not. And this judgement is ultimately about Sweden’s security,” said Björling to news agency TT.
How that works with selling weapons to India and Pakistan, Björling chose not to answer. Instead she referred the question to ISP.
According to Björling, Sweden’s rules on selling arms to dictatorships are strict and she is hoping to form a committee to work on ways to tighten Swedish arms export controls further.
And Ekman Duse agrees with her.
“For countries lacking in human rights, the rules stipulate that equipment which could potentially be used against the own population should not be exported,” he told DN.
The anti-tank weapons sold to Saudi Arabia, for example, are not meant to be used for internal struggles but only if another country would invade, according to Ekman Duse.
He did not want to speculate on whether it would be possible for the regime to use these in case of insurrection, as was seen in Syria.
Also, the export to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia aside, Swedish arms exports to the Middle East and North Africa was limited, according to ISP.