Germany has temporarily revoked the exportation license of arms manufacturer SIG Sauer, amid suspicions that the company sold arms illegally to Colombia, according to media reports.
Recently, it was revealed that as many as 65,000 Sauer pistols made their ways into the hands of Colombian National Police forces, despite German sanctions prohibiting the sale of arms to Colombia and other countries whose security forces have similarly poor human rights records.
Although the arms in question may have been sold through SIG Sauer’s sister company in the United States, the fact that they are German-made opens the door for sanctions from the German government, according to the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.
SIG Sauer had their certification as a “reliable exporter” suspended for the incident. Another similar case is being investigated by German authorities in the central Asian country of Kazakhstan, where SIG Sauer allegedly made a similar deal, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
German law currently prohibits the sale of weapons to countries embroiled in armed conflict and to security forces accused of widespread human rights violations, out of fear that said weapons could be used for “internal repression,” according to Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper.
History of the weapons in Colombia
While that would prohibit German arms dealers from doing business with the Colombian state, the German government had allowed the export of SIG Sauer weapons to the United States on the condition that the US Department of Defense not resell them.
Now, allegations are circulating that the US government did precisely that, after a German-manufactured SP 2022 pistol was found in the hands of a young Colombian police officer in May. Since then, almost 65,000 similar weapons have been discovered within the National Police.
After a German made SP2022 pistol was found in the hands of a young Colombian police officer, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported the incident and claimed that the United States could be sanctioned due to the export to Colombia of about 65,000 German made weapons without permission.
The weapons apparently arrived in shipments beginning in 2006, when then-Minister of Defense Juan Manuel Santos, currently preparing to enter his second term as president, authorized the replacement of the Armed Forces decades-old weapons with newer ones from the United States. The deal brought over 100,000 guns to Colombia, many of which now turn out to be German-made.
If the US government did in fact resell German-made weapons to Colombia, it would violate a commitment made with SIG Sauer and the German government.
Potential sanctions against US
According to El Tiempo, up until 2011 only “very small quantities of this weapon [SIG Sauer] were manufactured in the United States,” suggesting that the shipments must have originated from Germany. The German government has declared that “the allegations are serious” and that it would wait “to deduce what American companies or state institutions made mistakes” before determining what course of action to take.
The United States could face sanctions for reselling unauthorized German weapons to Colombia if the accusations prove to be true, according to reports in German newspapers.
In May of last year, another German arms manufacturer, Heckler & Koch, admitted to illegally selling thousands of rifles to Mexico, which were “reportedly used to commit human rights violations,” according to investigative crime outlet, Insight Crime.
- Ausfuhrstopp für Waffenexporteur Sig Sauer (Süddeutsche Zeitung)
- El lío de las pistolas que EE. UU. le vendió a Colombia (El Tiempo)