WASHINGTON - International arms makers and traders have violated every UN arms embargo of the past decade with almost total impunity, watchdogs said Thursday in a dossier submitted to the Security Council.
The world body has named hundreds of companies involved in the illegal transfer of arms and ammunition to dictators and death squads but violators have escaped punishment, according to Oxfam International and the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA).
Their reports were aimed at turning up the heat on Security Council members to back an international arms trade treaty in the 100 days leading up to a UN conference on small arms. Governments have yet to agree an agenda for the June 26-July 7 talks, let alone find common ground on a legally binding new pact.
The United States ranks top among the world's arms exporters. In developing countries, a majority of American arms have been sold to regimes defined as undemocratic by our own State Department.
2005 Arms Trade Resource Center report, World Policy Institute
''In the 100 days until the UN world conference on small arms starts, an estimated 100,000 people will be killed with arms and many more will be injured and suffer severely in other ways from armed violence,'' said Rebecca Peters, IANSA's director.
Arms dealers had made a mockery of UN controls, said Irene Khan, Amnesty's secretary general.
''Over the past ten years, systematic violations of United Nations arms embargoes have met with almost no successful prosecutions,'' Khan said. ''Unscrupulous arms dealers continue to get away with grave human rights abuses and make a mockery of the UN Security Council's efforts.''
That is because many UN member states have failed to make it a criminal offense for their arms makers and traders to violate mandatory, legally binding UN arms embargoes, said the coalition. Additionally, UN embargo enforcers lack sufficient time and resources--including support from the most powerful member states--to go after firms involved in illicit deals.
The dossier highlighted the example of a Serbian company, Temex, which it said delivered nearly 210 metric tons of weaponry to Liberia in mid-2002 in violation of a UN embargo covering the civil war-wracked West African country. Shipments included five million rounds of ammunition, 5,160 guns, 4,500 hand grenades, 6,500 mines, and 350 missile launchers.
''These shipments alone include enough bullets to kill the entire population of Liberia,'' the coalition said. ''A consignment of five million rounds of ammunition is approximately enough to keep an armed group of 10,000 fighters supplied for a whole year.''
The Control Arms Campaign also faulted the international sanctions system, saying that it offered too little, too late. Of 57 major conflicts that broke out between 1990 and 2001, it said, only eight triggered UN action and then only after widespread reports of killings and human rights abuses.
The coalition urged measures to tighten existing enforcement and swift agreement on a proposed new international treaty to govern the global arms trade. The pact would establish a single global standard for arms sales that would regulate the business and could save hundreds of thousands of lives, it said.
Some 45 countries have voiced support for the treaty, the dossier said, adding that the United States, Russia, and China--all major arms exporters--stand opposed.
Nobel laureates Bishop Desmond Tutu, Jody Williams, and Oscar Arias supported the groups' call for reform in an open letter to the Security Council.
''Today, millions of people around the world are living in fear of armed violence,'' they said.
''They have good reason to be afraid. Most victims of armed violence are not uniformed soldiers, nor even fighters, but ordinary men, women, and children,'' added the letter, also signed by former UN human rights commissioner and Irish President Mary Robinson, actors Helen Mirren and Tony Robinson, author-activist Arundhati Roy, and retired Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, who led UN peacekeeping forces during the Rwanda genocide.
Countries from all regions are involved in stoking the embargo-busting commerce, the watchdogs' coalition said. Its dossier provided a partial list including Albania, Belgium, the British Virgin Islands, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, the Cayman Islands, China, Cyprus, Egypt, Germany, Gibraltar, Guinea, Israel, Liberia, Libya, Moldova, Nigeria, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Serbia, South Africa, the Ivory Coast, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and Zimbabwe.
Last year, the coalition accused members of the self-selected Group of Eight (G8) industrial economies of shipping arms to tyrants in violation of European Union (EU) arms embargoes.
The G8 countries--Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States--accounted for 84 percent of all global arms supplies, the groups' 2005 report said.
It highlighted France and Germany, which it said broke embargoes and exported arms to China, Myanmar (formerly Burma), and Sudan. Russia, it added, sold arms to Ethiopia, Iran, and Sudan.
Canada, the groups said, skirted its own legal controls by selling military equipment to the United States, which in turn bundled the Canadian goods into larger exports to Colombia and other countries.
Last year's report further faulted: France for exporting tear gas to the Kenyan police despite that force's reputation for severe internal repression; Japan for selling small arms to Algeria, Lebanon, and the Philippines while officially maintaining that it exports no arms whatsoever; Britain for authorizing sales to human rights violators Algeria, Morocco, Pakistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey; and the United States for ramped-up sales to Israel and Pakistan.
The United States ranks top among the world's arms exporters. In developing countries, a majority of American arms have been sold to regimes ''defined as undemocratic by our own State Department,'' said a separate 2005 report from the Arms Trade Resource Center at New York-based New School University's World Policy Institute.
The increased weapons transfers were aimed at rewarding coalition partners in President George W. Bush's self-styled ''war on terror'' and ensuring continued U.S. military access to overseas bases, the report said. It assailed the strategy, saying it undermined rather than buttressed American security.
Copyright © 2006 OneWorld.net.