Just one shot for a bulletproof Arms Trade Treaty
Did you know that every year enough bullets are made to kill every person on this planet … twice?
And that eight million new guns are manufactured to fire them? The arms trade is a booming and deadly business. But it’s also an industry which is not globally regulated.
It’s true that there are UN arms embargoes on some countries – for example Libya and Somalia – which ought to be respected. But they’re normally set up after massive human rights abuses fuelled by weapons have already been committed. There’s nothing in place on a global scale to prevent these kinds of abuses happening in the first place.
This means that guns, grenades and all sorts of weapons are regularly being exported to places where they may be used for the worst kind of human rights abuses. We saw last year how weapons were being successfully transported to countries in the Middle East and North Africa just before the violence there intensified, despite those countries being flagged as ones which stood a real risk of committing human rights violations against its own people.
Just last week, we saw how the trial of Gary Hyde - British arms dealer accused of flouting UK laws by sending weapons to Nigeria from China collapsed over a technical legal point, and so will now be reviewed by the Court of Appeal.
This July, world leaders could make history by agreeing upon a new treaty which could be one of the most far-reaching and useful international laws the world has ever seen: the arms trade treaty.
This treaty has been under discussion at the UN in New York for the past five years, but now it looks as though this new law is seriously threatened. Mainly because some countries seem to want to make it as weak as possible – perhaps to avoid disruption to this flourishing, lucrative trade. For example, the US has tried to remove bullets from the treaty, and Pakistan has called for weapons like machine guns and assault rifles to be excluded.
Previously the UK has supported the need for a robust and effective arms trade treaty. And as leader of the opposition, David Cameron went on record advocating the need for this new law. It’s a shame then that since he’s taken office as Prime Minister, he’s been less outspoken on the matter.
If ever there were a time for Cameron to demand a human-right-centred arms trade treaty, it’s now.
Today Amnesty’s stepping up its campaigning on this issue. Over the past five years we’ve been behind the scenes lobbying governments around the world and producing reports for governments illustrating why this treaty is so desperately needed. But now with less than six months to go, it’s time for us much more vocal.
The clock is ticking and decisions taken in the next few months regarding this treaty are going to be crucial.
In just over six months’ time, we could have a new treaty which could significantly reshape the way the arms world operates and stop the needless deaths of hundreds of thousands of people around the world.
Or we could have a diluted, weak and dull new UN document which, quite frankly won’t be worth the ink used to print it out.
I don’t know about you, but I know which one I’d rather see.
Getting an effective robust human-rights-shaped arms trade treaty may seem like some kind of utopian fantasy. But if there’s enough global political resolve, we could really see the kind of global law which could literally save hundreds of thousands of lives.
The question: is will world leaders – including our own PM – have the courage to make such a law?
We need to have that clear commitment from David Cameron long before July. In February, representatives from countries around the world will meet at the UN for a final review of the draft Paper before July’s Negotiating Conference. February’s meeting will be just as important as July’s because some countries may try to derail the treaty at this stage.
So basically, now is the time to call for a strong new arms trade treaty. Take action and encourage our Government to commit to a human-rights-centred treaty.
Right now, we have global laws regulating the trade of postage stamps, dinosaur bones and bananas. Surely we can get one together for the trade of bullets, AK-47s and armoured personnel carriers.
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.