German arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch is promising to be more circumspect with sales contracts, specifically refusing to export firearms to countries that are non-NATO or non-NATO friendly, DPA reports.
“We only want to deliver to solid countries – that means unequivocally democratic, definitely not corrupt, and in NATO or close to NATO,” an employee, described as a “manager,” told DPA.
HK has created a sorta naughty and nice list, with “green” countries representing “nice” and “yellow” countries representing naughty. So, for example, the U.S. is obviously on the nice list or green list, whereas Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Turkey (incidentally a NATO member), and India are on the naughty list or yellow list.
Over its 67-year history, HK has taken heat for selling arms to countries with a dubious reputation, including Iran, Sudan, Chad and, as mentioned, Mexico. Additionally, HK has also granted licensing rights to 15 countries — including Saudi Arabia and Iran — so that they can manufacture G3 and G36 rifles in their own factories.
“We can certainly understand the ethical criticism of such exports,” said, the HK manger while also adding that that the recent shift in policy was still being “heatedly debated” within the company.
In 2017, several former HK executives will go on trial for violating Germany’s ban on selling arms into a conflict zone. The former employees are accused of selling G36 rifles to Mexico from 2003-2011.
Watchdog organizations like the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC) applauded the announcement.
“In principle this is exactly what we have called for,” said Wolf-Christian Paes of BICC, who also said that HK’s decision to become more discerning was a product of increased government regulation and scrutiny as opposed to concern for public welfare.
Whatever the reason for the change in policy, it’s good to see HK become a more responsible actor in the firearms community.