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Arms Trade Treaty: The battle for bullets (and tear gas, small arms, missiles…)

It's self-evident that to control the arms trade you have to actually control all the things that kill, maim and brutalise people, and capture all the ways that arms get into the wrong hands.

Maybe I take an overly simplistic view of such things, but if you want a treaty that really is going to save lives, and protect and uphold Human Rights, you need to have a pretty comprehensive definition of what it is you are going to control.

Self-evident as it may be, several states in the room want to narrow what is known as the “scope” of the treaty.

Iran, for example, in its statement said the ATT should not cover small arms, ammunition, missiles, weapons technology or weapons parts and components. The US continues to argue against ammunition, while Egypt told delegates that if the Treaty was to help save lives it should not include small arms - the category of weapons that kills most people

Obviously if such views prevail, we'll have an arms trade treaty that's very light on the actual weapons part.

Scoping the treaty

Today I was addressing conference delegates at an Amnesty lunch time meeting sponsored by the French government, to remind them of why a comprehensive scope is important to achieve an effective treaty.

I was speaking alongside Sergio Minardi, from Transarms, an expert in arms transportation, and Georges Guillermou from Action Sécurité Ethique Républicaines (ASER), a retired superintendent in the French National Police and now Security Human Rights Expert for the Council of Europe.

A main focus of my intervention (UN-speak for talking) was to ensure that governments did not exclude weapons used for internal security - including things like tear gas, rubber bullets and specialist crowd control vehicles.

Recent experience in the Middle East shows how devastating the misuse of this equipment can be, with several of the region’s governments using it in brutal crackdowns against their own populations.

A battle over nothing?

It's important to remember that this equipment - as well other disputed categories like ammunition, small arms, parts and components, and weapons related technologies and production equipment - is already controlled under the arms exporting systems of nearly all arms producing states.

So it makes no real sense that governments continue to argue against their own existing national practice in this area, especially given the appalling human suffering that results from irresponsible trading in these items.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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1 comment

I am Ray Profile should be banned arms sales to the state that kill their people an example of Sudan that killed the people of Darfur and wants to kill the sons of the Nuba Mountains
Muawia khater

scosudan 12 years ago