An Open Letter to Heckler & Koch

H&K weapons on display at the DSEi arms fair, 2009

H&K weapons on display at the DSEi 2009 international arms fair

The first protest against Nottingham-based arms company Heckler & Koch took place in May 2000, but it wasn’t until May 2008 that another demonstration launched the Shut Down H&K campaign, which has been running ever since.

18 months in, the campaign has decided that it’s about time to speak to Heckler & Koch. So, the campaign has written H&K a letter summarising the people’s concerns and asking the company to come clean about its dirty business…

Dear Sir,

We are sure you must be aware of our campaign, Shut Down H&K. We are a group of Nottingham residents, students and anti-arms-trade campaigners who are concerned about the role of Heckler & Koch in the international arms trade.

We hope that you can appreciate that our campaign has arisen out of a genuine concern about the consequences of your trade. We are writing to request information about the recent operations of Heckler & Koch, and to ask you to address our concerns.

We are aware that:

  1. Heckler & Koch weapons have been sold to many countries whose armed forces are well known to have committed serious and widespread violations of human rights in recent years, including the Philippines, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.
  2. The British National Archives show how Heckler & Koch has used the UK to manufacture and sell weapons to countries such as Nigeria and Kenya when such sales were restricted by the German government.
  3. Heckler & Koch has licensed manufacturers in countries such as Turkey and Pakistan to produce H&K-designed weapons. Through these arrangements, H&K has profited from sales to countries engaged in armed conflict including Indonesia and Sri Lanka during periods when direct sales to these countries were prohibited by the EU or by the governments of Germany and the UK.
  4. In recent years, the security forces of Nepal, Lebanon and Georgia have been armed with Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifles after the German government had denied export licenses for those transfers amid concerns about armed conflict and human rights violations.
  5. Heckler & Koch weapons have fallen into the hands of child soldiers in Africa, terrorists in the Middle East, militias in Darfur, rebels in Nigeria, arms traffickers in the Philippines, mercenaries in Iraq and organised criminals in Serbia. Heckler & Koch weapons have been used by armed forces in conflicts in which those forces have been accused by international monitors of war crimes, including Bosnia in 1991, South Ossetia in 2008 and Sri Lanka in 2009.

With H&K continuing to advertise its weapons on the international market, we would like to make sure that the company is no longer directly or indirectly supplying weapons to regimes guilty of human rights violations, war crimes or crimes against humanity. In order to ascertain this we would like to know about the business activities of the H&K Group during the period of time since its change of ownership in 2002 (hereafter referred to as the Period).

As the office responsible for “international customer sales and customer services” for non-NATO countries (according to the H&K Group website) we trust that you have the relevant information. By making this information available you would be addressing the growing concerns about Heckler & Koch, and demonstrating that the company has nothing to hide.

  1. We would like to see details of all sales (including training, service and repair) made by the H&K Group during the Period. We would also like to see details of any contracts for H&K to provide service or repair that have been in effect during the Period.
  2. We would like to know if Heckler & Koch’s UK division (aka NSAF Ltd) has had any involvement, during the Period, in sales to customers that had been denied export licenses by the German government. If so, we would like to know the details of that involvement.
  3. We would like to see details of any contracts that have been in effect during the Period whereby a third party was licensed to manufacture products for which the H&K Group owned the designs.
  4. We would like to know the full extent of the H&K Group’s involvement in the supply of weapons (or parts of weapons) to Nepal, Lebanon and Georgia.
  5. We ask H&K to provide an assurance that none of the weapons it is currently selling will pass into the hands of repressive regimes, arms traffickers, child soldiers, terrorist groups, organised criminals, or armed forces that deliberately target civilians, as so many H&K weapons have in the past. If H&K is prepared to make such an assurance, we would like to know how this can be guaranteed, given the lack of regulation of the international trade in small arms.

If you are willing, a delegation from the Shut Down H&K campaign would like to meet with representatives of Heckler & Koch to discuss our concerns in person.

We hope to hear from you soon.

Yours faithfully,

Shut Down H&K

19 comments to An Open Letter to Heckler & Koch

  • Bob's Your Uncle

    Much as you cannot recall a bullet after it leaves the muzzle, H&K cannot control where a weapon may eventually wind up after being transfered to an authorized end user. You may not like that, but that the way it is. I stead of picking on H&K, try this BS with the Russians, who sell AK47’s all over the world. Oh wait, they wouldn’t listen to you whine….and the truth is, you are against ALL guns, not just German ones….

    • Evey

      Firstly Bob’s Your Uncle, you’ve pointed out a reason that it is unethical to work for H&K. As you say, H&K cannot control where a weapon may end up. Can it be right for people to produce guns in the full knowledge that many of those guns will inevitably be used to oppress, rape and kill civilians (as H&K weapons have been used around the world)?

      We target H&K because it is in our home town. We would like to see other arms companies (including those that produce AK47s) targeted wherever they are.

      Every year small arms kill quarter of a million people, injure 1.5m more and cause millions to flee their homes. In the last 20 years, small arms have killed over 2 million children. The easy availability of small arms in some countries promotes a culture of violence, leading to collapse of health & education services, economy and social structure.

      So yes, we are against all guns.

      • Coleman

        Well Evey, the human race loves war. There has never been a time of peace in our recorded history. Even if you somehow get rid of all guns we would just revert back to medieval weapons. What causes more pain and suffering? A G36E or a mourning star.

        • Evey

          A G36E (Heckler & Koch assault rifle) makes it much easier to cause pain and suffering than a morning star (a spiked club popular with fantasy role-playing gamers).

          Coleman, the human race does not love war. Most people who have lived through war regard it as a horrendous experience.

          The fact that humans have always fought each other is not an argument for doing nothing about the suffering of armed conflict.

          Those who develop and profit from the technology of war and oppression are immoral, and anyone with a sense of morality should oppose them.

          • SFC Coleman

            Evey you know your stuff and u have pritty good responses. What I would like to know is if you are trying to shut down H&K because their guns are used by the “bad” guys or are u trying to cut off a source to which they can get weapons from.

            I respect the courage you and your poeple have for talking on such a powerful company, but you can’t blame them if their weapons fall into the hands of the enemy, its the falt of the owner not the producer.

            Now I never used any H&K weapons but I have fired a MP5K, but i knew what most of them looked like and I’d have to say thay besides other US soldiers and old G3s I didn’t see any modern day H&K weapons in the hands of the people we were fighting.

            You can E-Mail me at

            • Evey

              Coleman, you seem to think that US forces are the “good guys” and the countries that the US fights are the “bad guys”. I do not make that distinction.

              Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, the US has used military force against numerous countries, not in self-defence or to make the world a better place, but in order to get control of their resources.

              America has toppled democratically-elected governments through force of arms in order to serve corporate interests.

              Of course the US government presents these wars as just and necessary but the truth is that millions of people around the world have suffered as a result of America’s imperialist foreign policy.

              We oppose Heckler & Koch, not just because the weapons end up being used by forces like the Taliban and the Janjaweed, but also because the weapons are used by the forces that you are part of.

              • SFC Coleman

                As much as I hate to say this, but i agree with you about the US government useing its military just to gain resources. But thats just the government and the highest ranking people. Most of us soldiers go over there because we want to help them. Our leaders may be corupt but we are not. I went over there to save lives not for money. Dont think that just because im a soldier that I enjoy killing another human. Please write back Evey.

                Yours Truly,
                Sergeant First Class W. Coleman

                • Evey

                  Coleman, I’m not saying that you enjoy killing. I’m sure lots of people in the armed forces want to do good.

                  But US army’s purpose is not to do good and it never has been. Its purpose is to make sure that the US keeps getting more than its fair share of the world’s resources, and that means dominating and exploiting weaker countries.

                  It’s not just the current set of leaders that make it so. The US has pursued an imperialist foreign policy since the end of the 19th century.

                  You acknowledge that your leaders may be corrupt. In that case, why continue to serve them?

                  • SFC Coleman

                    I dont serve them I serve my country. I’ve thought about going AWOL and becomeing a Merc but i’d be frowned apon buy many. Yes are leaders are corrupt and they have been since the war in Vietnam.

                    We can’t oppose them. If we did it wouldn’t do any good, they’d just lock us up if we tryed. The US military is not only there to get the US more resources, we are also there, on some occasions, as peacekeepers.

  • Jake

    I’m not sure if your aware but H&K makes very expensive guns. They are very high quality, but very expensive. Because of this they are often the gun of choice for many SWAT teams, counterterrorism units and occasionally civilians for personal protection. Those are all “good guys”. The guys that need those weapons to ensure the safety of you and I. It is rather rare that you see an H&K in the hands of a terrorist, child soliders or even the army of a dictatorship . The reason is simple, cost. Why would a terrorist chose an H&K if he is just going to trash the gun anyways? He doesn’t, he goes with the cheaper, more common options. In fact H&K is likely the least commonly used in any crimes of any sort. This is again mainly because of their cost.
    You also seem to portray the USMC as some kind of big bad murdering machine. When such acts against civilians are rare and often caused but confusion. Some of this is called collateral damage it happens in all wars. Often people spend so much time looking at collate damage that they begin to lose site of the overall picture. It is that extreme minority’s that commit ostracises in the USMC and well as most military branches.
    You make these claims that H&K is arming child soldiers and terrorists but you don’t back that up. H&K firearms aren’t the logical choice for them and I don’t see any evidence on this site to suggest otherwise. I think you truly just have a problem with a gun manufacture in your town.
    You need to look at the bigger picture. It’s bigger than the guns. Is the gun causing the conflict? Sure maybe it’s making it easier but is it causing it? Without any guns there would still be fighting. Look at Rwanda, the Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi were armed mostly with machetes. Yet the still killed 30,000 people. Eliminating the gun isn’t eliminating the problem. How about starting a campaign to bring Rule of Law to parts of Africa, stop the drug traffickers, or raise the message of peace in the Muslim middle east? This helps solve the problem, taking guns away does not. If you have answers to these question please reply.


    • Evey

      Are you such a simpleton that you’re only capable of seeing conflict in terms of “good guys” vs “bad guys”?

      In the Indian state of Manipur, police commandos are being armed with H&K submachine guns, to fight those they call terrorists. Those same police commandos have been abducting, torturing and killing civilians for years. So perhaps it’s a bit simplistic to say that counter-terrorism units are “good guys”?

      There are numerous documented accounts of US Marine units slaughtering civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. When interviewed, Iraq vets said that such incidents are common and often go unreported.

      In the 2004 invasions of Fallujah, US Marines deliberately targeted civilians and medical personnel, vehicles and buildings, killing thousands. This was not carried out by a rogue “extreme minority” within the marines – it involved two whole regiments.

      If American citizens were the victims of war crimes like those, you would be howling for justice, but as the victims were Arab and the perpetrators were American, you’d rather dismiss it as “collateral damage” that is “rare and often caused by confusion.”

      If this website portrays the US Marine Corps as “some kind of big bad murdering machine”, it’s because that is exactly what it is.

      This site does not claim that H&K arms child soldiers and terrorists. It states that child soldiers and terrorists have been armed with H&K weapons. You don’t have to look too hard to find evidence of this, such as this Islamic State of Iraq propaganda video that shows a young boy brandishing an MP5 submachine gun.

      Small arms may not be the main cause of armed conflict, but they certainly facilitate it. Guns kill many times more people than machetes. They are the tools of repression, rape and mass killing. So you’re right, we do have a problem with a gun manufacturer in our town.

      And that’s about the only thing you’re right about.

      • Jake

        Why not attack the cause of the problem? Why attack the manufacture? If you have people fighting don’t take the arms because it doesn’t solve the problem. Why not attack the root of the problem and truly get something done?

        • Evey

          It depends what you think the problem is.

          For us, the people who supply the weapons used by warmongering, repressive and human-rights-abusing regimes are as much a part of the problem as the regimes that they empower.

          The fact that they operate from our home town makes it more of our problem.

  • Shawn

    I’ve been to war I have TBI “trimatic brain injury” and I stopped counting on the 47th IED that hit my Hummer. Look war is not pretty we all get that but to say ban HK is a joke how about you join the military and see first hand, never once did I see a terrorist with a HK all AK47 umm HK does not make 7.62×39. So where are they going to get 5.56. Look you have the freedom to write and protest but the only reason you have that right is that someone else was braver then you to take rounds or even there life for you to protest. You are right there are good and bad people in all army’s but there the % that makes the rest of the us look bad. I own 2 HK a USP 9mm and HK USC and the quality of your German guns are amazing. Sorry for grammar it’s my TBI. But instead of trying to ban a great company how about you help wounded soilders and sport them! Some one wrote that 2 million killed by guns over 20 years in 1 year 1.2 people die in car accidents world wide should we ban cars aswell.
    US Army retired age 26 hurt in Iraq protecting the freedom for all!

    • Skektek

      Well you may not have seen “terrorists” with H&K weapons, but terrorists do use them. It’s not hard to find photos of H&K weapons being carried by Taliban, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and child soldiers of the Islamic State of Iraq. The Red Army Faction even had a H&K gun in their logo.

      The obvious difference between guns and cars, is that unlike guns, cars are not designed to kill people.

      And let’s get one thing clear – soldiers like you are not fighting to defend my freedom of expression, or to protect the free world from terrorism – you’re just fighting to keep oil flowing to the USA.

  • Shawn

    Well I beg to differ on the oil! Ok if you belive on what you see on tv never showing the truth everything is always one sided about war did I belive everything that bush said no but I didn’t want too see what happened on 9/11 happen to and country. I help guard contractors that built schools for children in Iraq but you probably never hurd CNN talk about that. And terrorist can get any gun they want not just HK look I see that you are every one-sided but keep in mind war is hell and till we can all live together peacefully there is going to be conflict. Sorry that’s the human race read history books and you’ll see that war is the way of the human race, tech, medical and meds all came from war. It sucks but it’s true. And your post will be negative towards what I just said but hey someone gave there life so you can protest so keep protesting! Burn my US flag in my country I’ll look sad but at the same time I gave that person the right todo it and I don’t feel bad.

    • Skektek

      If you’re trying to stop another 9/11, you’re going about it all wrong. The 9/11 attacks were carried out because of US military involvement in the Middle East; specifically US troops in Saudi Arabia, US support for Israel, and US sanctions against Iraq. So I hardly think that more US interference in the region is going to make the situation safer.

      Of course terrorists and armed forces can get any make of small arms, not just H&K, but we have to start somewhere, and we’re starting in our home town, where H&K is based.

      If I understand your argument (and it’s not easy given your lack of punctuation) you’re saying that because human beings have always fought each other, it’s futile to try to prevent it. But then you undermine your own argument by saying that conflict will continue “till we can all live together peacefully”. Well we are working toward that day, whereas you are championing war, even though you admit it is “hell” and even though the “terrorists” use weapons made by the company we’re trying to shut down.

  • The Sensible Citizen

    I have tried in all honesty to find an appropriate and polite method of expressing my views but, after reading your comments and replies to other comments I can only seem to say one thing in one manner. Shutdown HK, you guys are complete and utter morons. HKs are NOT the first choice for rogue regimes, they are the first choice for British SAS, American Special Forces, SWAT and the like who combat crime and in fact take out terrorists and the likes. They are quality, expensive weapons and have a good reputation as such. By trying to ban all guns you are making a ridiculous backwards, leftist claim that has no logical basis. You might as well argue that we should all go back to using sticks and stones. Please open your eyes and grow up. You naive dimwits.

    • Evey

      What a simple world you live in Sensible Citizen – a world divided into good guys and bad guys, where only the good guys use H&K weapons.

      Did you actually read the letter above? You know, the bits about H&K weapons being sold to human-rights-abusing regimes?

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