•  
    • Info BCSP

    • Sign up to receive our e-bulletin.
    •  
    •  
    • Find publications, analysis and documents in our unique resource base available to all visitors of BCSP web site.
      Advance search
    •  
    •  
    •  
     
    •  
        •  

          Personnel solutions in the military top, bargaining on the number of the future reformed Serbian and Montenegrin Army (SMAF) and joining Partnership for Peace - these are the issues which, more or less attracts the major public attention when the army forces reform is concerned. Along with some other, very important aspects of the reforms, complex problems in refer to arms have also been neglected. The arms is mostly mentioned within the context of necessary modernisation of the weaponry or finding jobs for military industry but not in sense of lacking security culture and a number of problems which are informally connected to the notion of small arms.

          The recent serious accident, when one soldier lost his life and 12 of them were injured due to the storage and handling the arms against the regulations, tragically illustrate ignorance and violation of regulations even in the institution with detailed procedure, the greatest tradition and training such as the Army. One lieutenant colonel, the commander of battalion in Pirot, was convicted on July 26th to seven months in prison for abusing his official position and duty - he took out ten hand grenades, quite an amount of explosive, detonating devices and detonating safety fuse. The charge has been pressed against the head of the Belgrade police magazine for taking 17 of guns he had been responsible for. Some time ago, it has been published that 800 peace of weapons disappeared from the Serbian police storage during the last year. Almost every day, newspapers are full of the stories about serious injuries, premeditated homicides, Heat of passion murders, negligent manslaughter, by persons bellow legal age, by civilians and by active or retired members of security structures. The arms used were illegal, in most cases.

          All these accidents were caused by so called "small arms" which, according to the simplest definition, include infantry weapons (small arms are those weapons which are carried and used by an individual, while light weapons include heavy machine guns, throwers up to 100 mm calibre, antiaircraft guns and hand grenade launchers). In the international expert circles, small arms are considered to be the greatest security threat. According to the latest reports, some 639 million of small arms is being used in the world, taking more than 500, 000 human lives in one year: 300,000 people lose their lives in armed conflicts and some 200,000 are homicide and suicide victims. Much less people get killed by bombers, tanks, guns; even two atom bombs had several times less victims. The statistics shows that the victims of small arms are most often civilians, first of all women and children.

          Big money is in the game. These arms have been dominant during the conflicts in 90s because they are relatively cheap and accessible, easily transported, suitable for smuggling and carrying hidden and easy for fast training. Small arms, therefore, ignite and sustain conflicts, destabilise regions, disable support programmes, undermine reconciliation processes, stimulate violation of human rights, harm development and support "culture of violence". UN, OSCE and EU pay particular attention to developing adequate standards and procedures for secure storing arms, precise registration of military and police stocks and surpluses, as well as arms owned by civilians. Information exchange through international organisations and institutes has been established, as well as the exchange of experiences in creating legal solutions, regulations for marking manufactured arms and documentation which follows, export procedure to the end user (end-user verification). The measures include improvement of border control and cooperation, police training in order to strengthen citizens’ trust in legal armed forces. The campaigns have been designed for handing over illegal arms in cooperation with non-governmental organisations, as well as financial stimulants for underdeveloped regions, the programmes "arms for development".

          Due to the series of armed conflict in recent past, porosity of the borders and overflowing effect, the attention is directed to our region also in order to put legal arms under clear and strict control, collect as many illegal arms as possible and destroy the surpluses. It is estimated that more than one million of small arms are used in the Western Balkans and their spread has broader security, development and political implications. It is believed that without wide range of measures and with widely spread corruption, this arms end - sooner or later - in the hands of terrorists, rebels and criminals. Control of arms is described as "the instrument of the essence for stabilisation of the region" in recently adopted EU and NATO concerted approach for  the Western Balkans.

          South Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons  (SEESAC), founded in May 2002 by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Stability Pact is a unique regional programme of this rank situated in Belgrade. However, there is no coordinating body which would deal with these issues on the level of state union. The regulations of possession and carrying arms as well as the view of registration of the arms possessed by citizens are different in two republics.

          Exacerbating of civil war in Liberia and pictures of children soldiers with rifles in their hands did not incite the authorities to reveal all the details of the recent affair referring to the arms export to this country under UN embargo. While the affair of arms export from Republika Srpska to Iraq had far-reaching political and structural consequences, in Belgrade everything finished with dismissal of Jugoimport’s manager Jovan Čeković. Then sacked assistant of Defence Minister Ivan Djokić was appointed, last week, the assistant of chief of the SMAF General Staff for logistic and, at the same time, it was not revealed who was really responsible in Defence Ministry and Foreign Affairs. The law on arms export, allegedly being prepared at the end of last year by urgent procedure, has not been even mentioned for months. The Defence and Security Committee, a fundamental instrument of parliamentary control, which could improve coordination, has not been formed yet in Serbian and Montenegrin Parliament.

          Although the pressure of international organisations can be disputed since the list of donors to arms control programmes in this region includes some of the biggest world exporters and supporters of widely spread civilian possession of arms in households, our country could do much designing the approach within the forthcoming security sector reform. The expertise and the access to the UNDP global fund for these purposes of the mentioned regional project in Belgrade (SEESAC, until February 2005), experiences of other countries in reduction of armed forces and export control as well as readiness of bilateral donors (mostly from NATO countries) are at our disposal. We would probably improve our chances for more serious, legal export of our military industry and certainly enhance security of our citizens. Citizens are endangered by the wide spread of arms and poor application of regulations of this sphere, in many ways. Physical risk is brought by armed criminals, separatistic groups, non-competent civilians and even members of armed forces. Financial risk is due to expensive securing and conserving surpluses of arms, illicit import/export which pays no money to the state budget and loss of money due to lacking programmes which otherwise would soon be paid by interested donors.

          Belgrade and Podgorica have made several important moves. At the end of 2001, the SMAF surplus of 52,000 small arms and light weapons was destroyed, with the support of the USA Embassy. The amnesty for handing in the weapons used in conflicts in South Serbia had been previously carried out. A contact person for small arms was appointed in Defence Ministry. After the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjić, an amnesty was organised in Serbia for voluntary surrendering all surpluses of illegal arms, along with the possibility to legalise those kinds of weapons which are allowed by the law. The new Law on Possession and Carrying Arms is stricter. Serbian Interior Ministry announced that during the amnesty some 40,000 different weapons and explosives were collected. With support of SEESAC, 3,859 arms and 42,000 rounds of ammunition were destroyed at smelter in Smederevo (Železara), in April 2003.

          Two-month action of handing in automatic weapons and explosive devices with anonymity guaranteed, followed by the campaign of non-governmental organisations supported by USAID, was carried out in Montenegro this spring. At the end of May, 5,028 arms and 63,777 rounds of ammunition were destroyed, while SEESAC gave financial support to Montenegrin Interior Ministry aimed for buying computers. A general agreement has been reached with NAMSA, NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency, for destruction of 23,000 arms possessed by Defence Ministry, where the Netherlands government will be the key donor. Serbian Interior Ministry plans to destroy some 17,000 arms by the end of the year - in two turns, financed by US State Department. A new law on firearms is being prepared in Montenegro so legalisation and registration are to follow. After the recent tragic accident, Defence Minister ordered detailed control of weapons storage’s and other military premises, as well as the obligation of the SMAF members to surrender immediately the trophy weapons brought from the theatres of war.

          However, many of these actions could be organised with more expertise in order to plan more realistic terms, to get far-reaching effects, to rise awareness of the range and consequences of the problem and to preserve transparency. There could hardly be any reason, for example, to delay the action of surrender illicit weapons in Serbia and then to bring such a decision in haste, after Prime Minister had been assassinated, without cooperation with civil society which can contribute a great deal in preparation of such campaigns. What will be the effect of the strictest laws on possession and carrying arms in this region if they are to be applied inconsistently? Or, why were the Army members given such an unrealistic deadline of 24 hours to surrender trophy weapons while the public has not still been informed on the effects of this action? Was it necessary to wait for strategy and doctrine to be adopted first and therefore delay the preparation of the law on weapon export if it is clear that any new affair with illicit export would be very harmful?

          Although one should not, naturally, have any illusions about quick success of this kind of actions in the Balkans, one should keep in mind that information campaigns go on in Macedonia and Kosovo, as well as the awareness raising campaigns about the consequences uncontrolled possession and handling arms have on stability and development prospects of the country. On November 1st, voluntary surrender of arms, ammunition and explosive will start in Macedonia and it will last 45 days. In some parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, SFOR is collecting arms in an original way: they are giving tickets for raffle where a car as a main prize, while the Office of the High Representative is carrying out the reform of the security sector in cooperation with the governments of the entities and BIH. Establishing the centralised weapons data bank is a part of the armed forces reform which, supported by the international community, is taking place in Albania. Collecting arms in several regions of this country has been carried out since 1997, while UNDP provided small infrastructure projects for the most successful villages.

          Obviously, there is much work not only for Defence Ministry and other security structures in both republics, but also for the customs, judiciary, Foreign Affairs, for local and international experts, even for the associations of veterans, hunters, people who deal with security of persons and property, for the rifle shooting clubs, for retired officers and policemen, for non-governmental organisations dealing with children, youth, the refugees and displaced persons, for religious organisations. In broadly set concept of the security sector reform, small arms will keep playing an important part, due to the forthcoming reduction of armed forces and demobilisation, even if the acute problems such as a huge quantity of hidden arms in South Serbia were solved.

        • Tags: light weapons, smaf, armed forces, military, military industry, small arms, SEESAC
    •  
    • Post a comment

    •  
    •  
    • See all comments

    •  
    •