A “Golden Rule” on Human Rights Is Essential For An Effective Arms Trade Treaty

For Immediate Release

A “Golden Rule” on Human Rights Is Essential For An Effective Arms Trade Treaty

WASHINGTON - As UN member states meet in October to
consider moving towards negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty, a new
detailed report by Amnesty International urges world leaders to adopt a
"Golden Rule" on human rights.  This rule states simply that
governments must prevent arms transfers where there is a substantial
risk that they are likely to be used for serious violations of
international human rights and humanitarian law.

In the run up to October's UN discussions, a few states - -
including China, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Russia and the USA - - are
attempting to block, delay and water down proposals, which could make
the treaty fail in its objectives and allow the continued unchecked
trade in arms.

"Despite the massive green light from most of the world community, a
small minority of sceptics want to keep the status quo shambles so they
can turn a blind eye to blatantly irresponsible arms transfers,
rendering most national arms controls and UN arms embargoes weak and
ineffective," said Brian Wood, Amnesty International's arms control
manager.

The report Blood at the Crossroads: Making the case for a global arms trade treaty is
the first detailed examination of the parameters and scope of such a
treaty using nine detailed case studies of the catastrophic human
rights consequences of unrestrained arms trading.  From the ongoing
conflict in Darfur, military crackdowns in Myanmar and Guinea to the
proliferation of sectarian violence in Iraq, the report shows how and
why the current variation and loopholes in national arms legislation
allows massive violations of human rights to occur.  The report
demonstrates that without an effective human rights provision, a global
Arms Trade Treaty could fail to protect those most vulnerable.

"Discussions on an Arms Trade Treaty have reached a crossroads.
Governments can either carry on ignoring the horrific consequences of
irresponsible international arms transfers or they can meet their
obligations in an Arms Trade Treaty with a "Golden Rule" on human
rights that will actually help save people's lives and protect their
livelihoods," adds Helen Hughes one of the researcher of the report.

China, Russia and the USA, amongst many other nations, are
highlighted in the report as trading arms to countries with well
documented human rights violations.  The report uses the detailed case
studies of Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Guatemala, Guinea, Iraq, Myanmar,
Somalia, Sudan & Chad and Uganda to demonstrate how and why a
"Golden Rule" is essential to making an Arms Trade Treaty work:

  • China and Russia remain the largest suppliers of conventional arms
    to Sudan which are used for serious ongoing human rights violations by
    the Sudanese armed forces in Darfur. Russia supplied military
    helicopters and bomber aircraft, while China sold Sudan most of its
    arms and ammunition
  • In Iraq, the US Department of Defense has funded most of the supply
    of over one million rifles, pistols and infantry weapons for 531,000
    Iraqi security force personnel in a poorly managed and unaccountable
    process since 2003.  This supply has compounded the massive
    proliferation of arms and gross human rights abuses which began under
    the former Saddam government. The new supplies have sometimes involved
    dubious players in international supply chains and a basic lack of
    accountability by the Iraq, US and UK governments, leading to
    diversions of supplies to armed groups and illicit markets.
  • In Myanmar, despite the persistent pattern of well-documented human
    rights violations committed by Myanmar government forces, China,
    Serbia, Russia and the Ukraine have between them supplied armoured
    personal carriers, trucks, weapons and munitions, while India has
    recently offered to supply more arms.

The report shows graphically how violations of UN arms embargoes
continue on Cote d'Ivoire, Somalia and Darfur in Sudan because of weak
national laws and lack of commitment and capacity by some governments,
making the case for an effective treaty even stronger. The failure of
over 80 per cent of states to establish laws to control arms brokering
and arms transportation makes this problem worse.  

"The time for an Arms Trade Treaty is now. Sixty years after the
signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the same
governments can and should deliver an effective agreement on
international arms transfers with human rights at its heart."

Background
An historic vote at the UN General Assembly in December 2006 saw 153
governments vote for a resolution to start working towards a global
arms trade treaty. There was one vote against (USA), with 24
abstentions (Bahrain, Belarus, China Egypt, India, Iran Iraq, Israel,
Kuwait, Lao, Libya, Marshall Islands, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar,
Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, UAE, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe).

Amnesty International has joined with Oxfam and the International
Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) to set up the Control Arms
campaign. The campaign calls for an international Arms Trade Treaty
that could save thousands of lives and hold irresponsible arms dealers
to account. Since it started in October 2003, Control Arms has gathered
the support of more than one million people worldwide.

Saturday 13 to Friday 19 September 2008 is Arms Trade Treaty Week of Action.
More than 50 countries will be hosting events related to this
campaigning Week of Action, with activities to remind governments that
‘The World is Watching'. There is also a viral game pressing
governments to support an effective arms trade treaty - http://www.controlarms.org/en/games/catch-bombs

For details of events and materials, see the Control Arms website at www.controlarms.org

 

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