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Czechia

Trade in military equipment [page 18-20]

“Implements Principles 5, 6 and 7

Trade in military equipment is one of the riskier sectors from the perspective of human rights. While the manufacture of military equipment and arms is a traditional segment of Czech industry, these are goods that are susceptible to abuse, so they must be subject to regulation. A legislative act [Act No 38/1994 on external trade in military equipment and amending Act No 455/1991 on licensed trading (the Trading Act), as amended, and Act No 140/1961, the Criminal Code, as amended] establishes procedures for the authorisation of trade, conditions for the granting and use of licences, and general inspections of trade in military equipment, including penalties.

In the Czech Republic, there are two stages to checks on external trade in military equipment. The first stage is authorisation to engage in external trade in military equipment. The authorisation specifies specific items of equipment in which the holder can trade, and lists the countries where trade is permitted. Authorisation is issued by the Ministry of Industry and Trade on the strength of opinions submitted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (encompassing foreign-policy interests, commitments under international treaties and membership of international organisations, including the protection of human rights), the Ministry of the Interior (encompassing public policy, security and protection of the population), and the Ministry of Defence (covering the provision of national defence).

The second stage is the licence for external trade in military equipment, which is required to carry out specific deals. The decision on whether to issue or refuse a licence rests with the Ministry of Industry and Trade, again in response to binding opinions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (other than applications for transfer licenses for EU Member States), the Ministry of the Interior and, where the military equipment is significant, the Ministry of Defence (these opinions cover the same areas as those addressed for authorisation to engage in foreign trade in military equipment).

Checks on the use of exported arms rely, in part, on information in the end-user certificate (EUC). If doubts have arisen or if there are reasons for heightened prudence, the state may reserve the right to conduct a subsequent spot check via its embassy, and/or to make the delivery of military equipment conditional on the presence of state representatives at the destination.

Although this process is consistent with standards within the European Union, it is occasionally castigated on grounds of transparency, the amount of information released by the state, and the timeliness of access to such information. Every year, the Ministry of Industry and Trade publishes an Annual Report on Checks on the Export of Military Equipment, Small Arms for Civilian Use and Dual-use Items and Technology. In view of the sensitivity of this whole issue, these reports are consulted with the National Security Council and are subsequently approved by the Government ahead of publication. The annual reports are relatively lengthy, respect the methodology for drawing up common annual reports of the European Union, and mainly contain summaries and statistics. So much data is processed, and it is so taxing, that these annual reports tend not to be approved by the Government until July of the following year. The EU’s summary annual reports [In accordance with Article 8(2) of Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP defining common rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment]  are published with a time lag of more than a year, which has also been criticised.

The Czech Republic also reports regularly to the UN on international transfers of conventional arms, small arms and light weapons. In accordance with Article 13 of the Arms Trade Treaty, the Czech Republic also submits a report to the Treaty Secretariat for the preceding calendar year concerning authorised or actual imports and exports of conventional arms. Information on specific transactions may be reported to the extent permitted by the protection of classified information and trade secrecy. However, non-profit organisations such as Amnesty International continue to criticise the Czech Republic for exporting weapons to “high-risk countries”.

Current state of play:

  • Trade in military equipment is regulated beyond the framework of national legislation and at EU level, in particular by Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP defining common rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment. That Common Position defines eight binding criteria for assessment of applications to export military equipment, including the need to consider the risk of potential violations of human rights.
  • The Czech Republic participates in a number of international schemes to regulate the arms trade. In particular, it is party to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which provides that if there is a clear risk that the conventional arms to be exported might be used in the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian law, export will be denied.
  • The Ministry of Industry and Trade publishes annual reports on trade in military equipment. Some information is provided by the Ministry at half-yearly intervals outside of that process.
  • The Czech Republic regularly reports to international organisations or within the scope of international control regimes on the basis of binding international treaties.

Tasks:

  • Expand the half-yearly overviews issued by the Licensing Administration to include further information releasable in accordance with legislation and Government resolutions.
    Coordinator: Ministry of Trade and Industry
    Deadline: 30 June 2019
  • Hold regular meetings between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the non-governmental sector on issues of transparency and human rights in trade in military equipment.
    Coordinators: Ministry of Industry and Trade, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    Deadline: Running
  • Offer all necessary cooperation and assistance to the Parliamentary Subcommittee on Acquisitions of the Ministry of Defence, Trade in Military Equipment and Innovations of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic so that regular assessments can be carried out of the human rights risks posed by export licences and by military equipment exports that have been made.
    Coordinators: Ministry of Industry and Trade, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    Deadline: Running”
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