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Norway: New Restrictions on Weapons Exports

(Dec. 7, 2012) Norway has recently adopted rules placing additional restrictions on exports of weapons produced in the country. The move comes after a report that more than 200 civilians were killed by Norwegian firearms in the Iraq war. The government will now have the ability to stop sales of weapons to authoritarian regimes and to countries where human rights issues have been raised. In addition, the government has proposed improvements to the application process for the export of defense materials and measures to assure consistency in how the assessment of the human rights situation in a country is conducted, when that country seeks to purchase weapons from Norway. (Norway Tightens Restrictions on Weapons Exports, ICE NEWS (Dec. 3, 2012); Norway Tightens Weapons Export Rules Amongst Rising Trade, DEFENSE TALK (Nov. 26, 2012).)

According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Espen Barth Eide, Norway “attaches importance to ensuring that the defence industry has good and predictable framework conditions. At the same time, we will safeguard and further develop clear and stringent legislation for the export of defence materiel.” (Norway Tightens Restrictions on Weapons Exports, supra.) Norway currently exports weapons worth NOK3.1 billion (about US$548 million) each year, under rules that forbid their export to nations engaged in warfare or where there is a threat of war. (Id.; Norway Restricts Arms Exports, THE NORDIC PAGE (Nov. 17, 2012).)

Eide added that transparency requirements would be essential in the new rules, stressing the value of the “greatest possible degree of openness on exports of defence materiel” and that transparency will “send an important signal to the international community.” (Norway Tightens Restrictions on Weapons Exports, supra.)

According to a newspaper report, Norway will consider the following factors in determining where weapons can be exported to a country:

  • attitudes to international human rights instruments, and respect for humanitarian law;
  • respect for civil and political rights;
  • reports by the competent organs of serious violations of human rights, including the use of torture or other inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment in the receiving state, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty;
  • the risk that the exported items could be used for violation of basic human rights, e.g., using such military equipment to crack down on peaceful demonstrations;
  • the risk of unwanted diversion of material from the approved recipient, including whether the military equipment or military technology is intended for national security purposes;
  • issues related to freedom of expression, including freedom of the press and of assembly; and
  • the degree of regulatory monitoring, through such means as censorship and the setting of conditions, of citizens’ use of social media and the Internet. (Norway Tightens Restrictions on Weapons Exports, supra.)