Prague, Algiers, Brussels
Last week it was reported that Czech arms exports increased 55.5% to almost USD 182 million in total. Then it was announced that one firm had illegally exported military equipment to North Korea without a license, and this week, the owner of that firm was detained. Lost in all of this was the fact that at least one other buyer of Czech military equipment is another regime with an atrocious human rights record: Algeria.
Since 1992, when the battle between Islamic militants and Algeria's government began, about 75,000 people have lost their lives. Far from being simply the focus of the terrorists' violent protest, the Algerian government, as recent reports from Amnesty International and the BBC have made clear, is responsible for and in many cases conducts much terror itself.
In the first place, the Algerian government has been responsible for horrific negligence. Most of the massacres take place near the capital which is the most militarily re-enforced area in the country. In fact, many of the worst terrorist atrocities occur within sight of government army barracks and the bases of the security forces, and yet those official forces fail to lift a finger to protect their own citizens. In such cases the brutal massacres are officially condoned
As if standing around and watching while its own citizens are murdered was not bad enough, the Algerian authorities have actively taken part in abductions and gruesome systematic torture. The authorities have also encouraged civilians to arm themselves and form militias. Those militias are allowed to operate beyond the law, and they themselves commit massacres, often in revenge on villages that they feel have had some part in massacres committed against their villagers.
These untrained and undisciplined militias are linked to the government because the government has given them arms. One wonders how many of those arms originated in the Czech Republic.
1997 was a particularly savage year in Algeria, and the year transpired against a background of what Amnesty International has called: "systematic human rights abuses committed by security forces, state-armed militias and armed opposition groups, who call themselves "Islamic groups". Extrajudicial executions, deliberate and arbitrary killings, torture, "disappearances", abductions, arbitrary detention and death threats have been part of the daily reality in Algeria for the past six years." Those atrocities are being carried out not only by the terrorists but by the government forces as well.
The EU has recently been trying to talk with the Algerian authorities, but Algerian officials are reluctant to be frank with the EU for obvious reasons. Also, one gets the feeling that the EU's attempts are half-hearted as they fail to condemn outright the Algerian government for its atrocities and as several EU countries also supply the regime with arms.
The Czech Republic is not the only country providing the Algerian government and its lawless militias with weapons, but that is hardly the point. The point is that the Algerian regime is a brutal one, and no decent government ought to provide them with the weapons it uses to kill its own people.
There used to be a moral light in Central Europe. He was a man who spoke out bravely against the international arms trade, especially to regimes with appalling human rights records like today's Algeria. Now that man is so committed to the EU and NATO that he has lost his moral voice and can no longer take a stand that might not be in full agreement with those clubs he wants his country so desperately to join. He has sacrificed his world-renowned conscience on the altar of Brussels. Too bad. There's some people in Algeria that could use his help.