Shift burden of proof for arms sales: Letter

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Sirs: Ian Linden ("A prize shames the world into action", 14 October) describes some typical Foreign Office responses to demands for an arms embargo against Indonesia: "impracticable to monitor regularly" ... "no evidence that Hawk aircraft are used for repression" ... "Indonesian government assurances".

He concludes, rightly, that if the West continues to supply arms to the Indonesian aggressors, "the future for East Timor looks grim".

Indonesia's New Order regime came to power in the wake of the massacre of up to one million Indonesians in 1965-66. Its 1975 invasion of East Timor has led to an ongoing war in which 200,000 Timorese have died.

Why should the Foreign Office be allowed to judge Indonesia, or any other nation with a continued record of severe human-rights violations, "innocent until proven guilty" when selling them material that could be used to torture or kill? And why should the victims (and their pitifully few Western friends) have to prove what, thanks to Amnesty International and other disinterested observers, we already know all too well - that murderous regimes will continue to murder if we give them the means to do so?

It is time for British human-rights activists to insist that the burden of proof shift from the persecuted to the oppressors. We must stop playing the game according to the rules of the arms-sellers.


Arnside, Cumbria