Belgian NGO Vredesactie files complaint against Barco Co. for illegal weapons trade with Israel
On Tuesday December 20th, Vredesactie filed an official complaint at the Ghent police office against technology company Barco. Barco developed a flight simulator for the Israeli air force, but never requested an export permission, although Belgian legislation on arms trade requires this. “Illegal arms trade”, says Vredesactie.
Barco, a Belgian technology company that designs and develops visualization solutions, developed a sofisticated military flight simulator together with Israeli defense giant Elbit. This simulator allows up to eight F-16 or F-15 fighter jet pilots to train on large-scale air attack scenario's, reminiscent of the attack on Gaza in 2009. Elbit and Barco signed a deal worth 10 million $ in the first half of 2010.
To circumvent Belgian legislation on weapons exports, the actual production takes place in the US. But part of the technology was developed in Belgium. A prototype of the flight simulator has been displayed at the Barco site in Kuurne in July 2010. At this presentation, it was announced that the Israeli Defense Force concluded a milestone review of this prototype. Based on this milestone review the IDF awarded the contract in the beginning of November 2010.
Barco circumvents government control
Under the current Belgian legislation on weapons exports, immaterial transfer of technology necessary for the development of military goods is also subject to demand for export license. Assemblage or testing of prototypes under this legislation is defined as 'development'. Barco did precisely the latter in Belgium.
The company never requested an export license for this specific technology. This can be deduced from the statements by minister-president Peeters in the Flemish Parliament on 25 October 2011.
Hans Lammerant, spokesperson of Vredesactie: “We want this case to be subject of a criminal investigation and ask for the arms exports law to be applied. Therefore, Vredesactie filed an official complaint at the Ghent police office.”
An export permit, if Barco had asked one, would have never been granted. After the 2009 Gaza war, the regional governments in Belgium agreed not to grant export licenses for weapons or defense technology destined to the Israeli defense forces, installing a de facto weapons embargo against Israel.
Strict weapons exports law and tight controls necessary
Hans Lammerant: “This Barco-case is a clear indication of the importance of a tight control on the end users of defense-related technology. This control should include the prevention of circumventing maneuvers, such as the production elsewhere of defense-related products developed in Flanders.”
The Flemish Parliament will vote on a new law on weapons exports in the first months of 2012. With the proposals on the table now, it is very likely that future weapons exports from Flanders will continue to escalate armed conflict.
- Aviation Week & Space Technology article on the Barco-Elbit flight simulator: http://vredesactie.be/
- text of the official complaint: http://vredesactie.be/