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Canadian Company and Government Knowingly Violate UN Arms Embargo on Libya

(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)

Streit Group, a Canadian-owned company, has supplied armoured vehicles to war torn Libya in violation of the UN imposed arms embargo.

The UN has spoken against Streit Group, who has manufacturing plants in Innisfil, Ontario, north of Toronto, for violating a UN resolution and sending 131 armoured vehicles to Libya in 2012.

Typhoon armoured carriers were delivered to Libya in 2014. (CBC News)

Streit Group told international investigators that it did nothing wrong. The UN investigators expressed their concerns regarding Streit’s violation of the UN resolution.

CBC News acquired records of sales and shipment schedules that prove Streit never stopped sending armoured vehicles to war-torn Libya.  

The record showed that around 79 Typhoon and Spartan patrol vehicles were sent to Libya in 2014.

Human rights organizations said that Streit’s violation of the sanctions has possibly inflamed the ongoing fighting in Libya and other war-torn countries in Africa like South Sudan.

Alex Neve, the Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada said, “when we’re talking about arms deals with countries like South Sudan and Libya, that raises very serious red flags.”

“There is absolutely no question that a decision to sell arms, in the context of those two countries, contributed either directly or indirectly to the worsening human rights situation in both of those countries and simply should not have been something the company considered to do at all.”

The leaked records reveal that four other companies, one American and the other three from the United Arab Emirates, were involved in the deal to send vehicles to Libya. The vehicles purchased by the UAE were given to local militias, like the Sawaq Brigade, or the Libyan Interior Ministry when Libya effectively had no government.

The UAE, who is known to be a supporter of General Khalifa Haftar, said it was unable to tell who ended up receiving the vehicles in Libya, blaming it on the country’s chaotic situation.

The records further reveal that shipments continued into last year. In July 2015 one of the shipments on route to Libya was stopped by Greek patrol vessels. The UN did not release the shipment until December 2015 when the unity government recognized by the UN claimed the shipment. The shipment was confiscated when it was on route to Misrata which was controlled by ISIS at the time.

A UN panel who monitored the arms embargo stated that the UAE had violated the sanctions by “donating” the vehicles manufactured by Streit to Libya in 2012.

“In its response, the company ‘strenuously reject any suggestion that Streit Group could knowingly or otherwise break national or international law,” the UN report said.

Paul Champ, a human rights lawyer, said the Canadian government has enough reason to investigate and potentially prosecute Streit allegedly breaching the Special Economic Measures Act. Champ added that the Canadian government should have began an investigation when the UN report was released last spring.

In response, Global Affairs Canada said that there is not much Canada can do as the deals were made in the UAE.

Alex Neve is not convinced by the explanation provided by the Canadian government and continues to call for an investigation into the deals by Streit.

“It is stunning and deeply disappointing to see that a Canadian company — whatever the nature of their offshore operations were — was selling military equipment to South Sudan, in the middle of that country’s brutal civil war, and also to Libya in the midst of the chaos and lawlessness that has prevailed there over the last five years,” said Neve.

Other evidence surfaced suggesting that the Canadian government approved the shipments sent to Libya in 2012, which he UN was critical about.

Streit has plants in nine countries, including Canada and the United Arab Emirates. It also has offices in war-torn regions such as South Sudan and Libya. (CBC News)

Former Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is reported to have authorised a sale of armoured vehicles worth $2.68 million in 2012 and 2013, while the UN was investigating the violation of the sanctions.

Those currently occupying the ministry did not name the company was involved in the approved deal but said that it was “not prohibited by existing United Nations sanctions on Libya.”

The UN investigators said they absolutely disagree with the ministry’s claim.

In 2013 the UN released a resolution that allowed Libya to receive unarmed military armoured personnel carriers (APCs). The UN panel said the revised resolution should have never been issued.

“The panel believes that all transfers of APCs should be under embargo as they significantly increase the military capability of armed groups. In addition, most types of APCs identified by the panel can easily be mounted with weapons after delivery. The panel is also concerned about diversions of this… [material] to militias,” said the panel’s report.

This is not the first time Streit Group has gone against UN sanctions. CBC also acquired leaked documents that provided evidence a sale in 2014 of 173 armoured vehicles sent to the police force of South Sudan that ended up in the hands of an army fighting in a civil war.   

Champ said Streit has been exploiting a loophole in arms trades regulations and reinterpreting them to suit its own interests.

“Right now, Canada’s export control regime in respect to goods and weapons and armaments, I think, are the weakest among all the NATO countries,” Champ said. “If you look at the Export Permits Act and the export control list, it’s very, very vaguely worded and I think would be impossible to enforce.”

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