An AK-47 - often the 'credit card' for FARDC soldiers

In less than three weeks, dignitaries from all over the world will grace the corridors of the United Nations building in New York to mark the start of talks for one of the most important and historic pieces of legislation the world has ever seen.  Several statesmen and stateswomen will express their support for an international arms trade treaty (ATT) – a legislation which would see the global regulation of the transfer, trade and shipment of weapons and ammunition.

At first glance, I’m sure it would seem as though all would nod and agree: there must be an arms trade treaty. So why have a whole month of discussion about it? Shouldn’t all the attendees of the first week of the Negotiating Conference just sign a document and then put their feet up to watch the Olympics?

Well, as we know it just ain’t that easy.  As the devil is in the detail. What Russia thinks an ATT should look like may vastly differ from what Mexico for example may think should be covered in an ATT.

As Amnesty’s new report on the arms trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) points out today, there are worryingly diverging standards in operation when it comes to the transfer and trade of weapons between countries.

Take the DRC for example: the eastern part of this vast country has been beset with conflict for several years and despite arms embargoes in place, the region is still awash with weapons.  This enables the Congolese security forces and armed groups alike to commit serious human rights violations, and also to trade weapons with ease.  According to Amnesty "the AK47 rifle is often deemed as the 'credit card' for FARDC soldiers" as they give their weapons to armed soldiers and rebel groups.  

It seems extraordinary then that countries are still sending weapons to the DRC without the rigorous checks and balances that need to be in place to ensure that the weapons aren’t misused. With all the arms and ammo swirling around the DRC, is there really a need for more?
Well in recent years, a range of weapons, munitions, and related equipment has been supplied to the DRC’s government, including small arms, ammunition, tear gas, armoured vehicles, artillery guns and mortars. In the majority of cases examined transfers have been allowed by supplier states in spite of the substantial risk the weapons are likely to be used for serious human rights abuses or war crimes in the DRC. The main arms suppliers to the DRC include China, Egypt, France, South Africa, Ukraine and USA.

And in the majority of cases examined transfers have been allowed by supplier states in spite of the substantial risk the weapons are likely to be used for serious human rights abuses or war crimes.

There’s already evidence that there are huge discrepancies between countries’ opinions on when arms should be sold and supplied to another country.  An Arms Trade Treaty should go about regulating all of that.  But with so many diverging opinions already, something tells me that July’s going to be a hot month in the UN building in New York.  If you want to help us make sure we get the right kind of treaty, feel free to tweet the US State Department with this message: .@StateDept This July, we have the chance to create a safer world. Will we take it? Support a strong with human rights #ArmsTreaty  

Otherwise, watch this space for more.
 

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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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