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Friday, 19. July 2024

Peace and freedom cannot be obtained at the point of a gun

IPPNW Small Arms Congress „Human Target“

The „Human Target“ Congress on the social and economic impact of the global arms trade is the first international congress on small arms to take place in a region of Germany where the weapons are produced. More than 300 participants from 25 countries, including from Europe, Australia, South-East Asia, Near East, Africa, North and Latin America, are taking part in the Congress.

Internationally renowned speakers made presentations on the global impact of the trade in small arms and the concrete effects for those most affected by them in the Global South. Dr. Walter Odhiambo from Kenya demonstrated, using actual case histories from patients at his clinic in Nairobi, the medical, social, psychological and, not least, financial costs of a single bullet for the victims, their families and the country's health system. Scientist, author and activist Andrew Feinstein pointed out the grey area between the legal and illicit arms trade. In his 13 years of working as an arms expert, not one single arms deal has come to his notice that didn't contain at least some element of illegality. „Every arms export involves some measure of corruption, bribery or the participation of criminal middlemen“.

On Saturday June 1st the participants of the Congress and the Choir network of Baden-Württemberg will go to the biggest German small arms producer in Oberndorf. They will express their protest against the weapons produced in Oberndorf with a concert in front of the gates of „Europe's deadliest company“ (as named by Jürgen Grässlin in his new book Schwarzbuch Waffenhandel). At the same time, they will witness the place where the suffering of their patients originates. „Homsuk Swomen, a doctor from Nigeria, explains: „When young patients are brought into to my surgery with bullet wounds, the first thing I have to do is stop the bleeding and try to prevent them from dying. Every bullet tells a story.“

Heckler & Koch decided not to follow our invitation to take part in the Congress but issued a statement today in which they express their regret at every victim of armed conflict. According to Grässlin in his recently published book Schwarzbuch Waffenhandel (The Black Book of the Arms Trade), 114 people die every day through the use of weapons that Heckler & Koch produces. The company says they are working for a peaceful world with „security for civilians, freedom and the basic right of free speech“, a claim we absolutely reject. Peace and freedom cannot be obtained using armed violence. Neither are they possible in countries in which political systems become corrupt and are undermined by a massive influx of deadly weapons. There is evidence to show that Heckler & Koch supplies countries that use those weapons to commit human rights' abuses and to prevent people exercising their democratic rights. A particularly blatant example is the issue of a licence to Hecker & Koch for the sale of the G36 assault rifle to the authoritarian regime in Saudi Arabia, who in turn offered these weapons for sale on the international market, thus spreading the epidemic even further.

„As the world's third largest arms exporter, Germany is contributing to this epidemic of small arms in a devastating way. We need to break the silence on the health and social impact of the small arms trade and take on our responsibility for the suffering of its victims“, said Dr. Helmut Lohrer, member of the German IPPNW board and President of the Congress.

Contact: Angelika Wilmen, Press officer, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War / Physicians for Social Responsibility, German affiliate, Körtestr. 10, 10967 Berlin, Email: wilmen@ippnw.de, www.ippnw.de, cell: +49-162-2057943