English translation small arms newsletter of the
German Campaign against small arms
October 2008

German Small Arms Exports: New Record Level

von Roman Deckert

The annual report of the German government on arms exports for 2007 is due to be published some time in the coming weeks. As in previous years there is no fixed date for the publication which has been criticized again and again by the alternative reports of the „Joint Conference Church and Development“ (GKKE). However, figures on the licenses issued for the export of small arms are already available since the German government has reported the data to the Conventional Arms Register of the United Nations in June. The facts are alarming:

For instance, the Federal government has approved of licenses to export 1.209 submachine guns to Egypt which has been under a constant state of emergency since 1981. This is all the more remarkable since Egypt has not been using German small arms before. The Indian Armed Forces which use Heckler & Koch’s MP5 as a standard weapon were allowed to import 773 submachine guns from Germany. German manufacturers achieved a further breakthrough in the Caribbean state of Trinidad & Tobago which got green light for the purchase of 985 submachine guns and 260 assault rifles.

Particularly alarming are licenses for massive transfers to two areas of conflict: the Arabian Peninsula and Mexico. The Sultanate of Oman was allowed to buy 455 submachine guns, the Wahabi Kingdom of Saudi Arabia could order 5.100 assault rifles. Mexico, where the violent conflict between the government and narco cartels has recently been flaring up dramatically, got permission from Berlin to purchase 3.336 submachine guns and 6.667 assault rifles. It is remarkable that the Mexican authorities show far greater transparency in this field than the German government. While the latter does not give any specific information on the arms models with reference to industrial secrets, Mexico has reported to the UN Register that it imported products from the Southern German manufacturer Heckler & Koch, namely MP5 submachine guns and G36V assault rifles.

All in all the ruling coalition of Conservatives and Social-Democrats in 2007 has issued licenses for the export of 10.387 submachine guns to 43 countries and 19.094 assault rifles to 34 countries compared to 5.796 submachine guns to 49 countries and 9.626 assault rifles to 34 countries in 2006. Thus the number of licenses has nearly doubled. Also, the export of components is not reported to the UN Register wherefore it must be assumed that the proliferation of German small arms is considerably greater.

Handguns are not included in the German reports to the UN. It is striking that Mexico shows much more transparency in this field as well, as it registered the import of 1.110 Heckler & Koch USP pistols and 5.184 Carl Walther P99 pistols. After all, the Mexican practice is much more transparent in a very central point too: The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) criticizes that Germany only reports the figures on licenses issued, although the UN template requires the number of actual exports. Mexico on the other side does provide data on actual imports. Germany – a country which covers nearly everything in its statistics and which claims to play a leading role in the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms - apparently lacks the political will to comply with the UN requirements


is a small arms researcher at the Berlin Information-Centre for Transatlantic Security (BITS) and a board-member of the Information-Office on Armor (RIB e.V.), Freiburg i.Br.