Legacy time for the UK Government as Arms Trade Treaty talks reach critical point

After nearly 20 years of campaigning for an effective Arms Trade Treaty, the next 48 hours could be history in the making. This is legacy time.

The talks will reach their climax at the United Nations in New York on Thursday night.

The question is will the UK delegation be able to walk out of the UN with their heads held high knowing that they have done all that they could?

Gathered are the great and good from across the globe. In the next 48 hours they will decide whether the world should know who weapons are going to and have the power to stop them going to the wrong people, or not.

Back on this side of the Atlantic, there can’t be many better examples of why we need an Arms Trade Treaty than the trial in The Hague of Bosco Ntaganda, also known as ‘The Terminator’.

Ntaganda is accused of being the chief of operations for the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo. The group is allegedly responsible for the brutal murder of over 800 people in 2003, and is accused of raping and abducting women for sex slaves.

The people responsible for these crimes should not have been allowed access to weapons.

A bullet-proof treaty would stop munitions and weapons getting into the hands of human rights abusers. So there’s a hell of a lot at stake in New York.

But there’s a lot of work to be done between now and Thursday night. The first draft was far from perfect. It was full of deficiencies. It was too narrow and too weak.

The UK Government set itself seven targets which it would prioritise and after the first draft it had only made incremental progress on two of them. The ministers are still upbeat, but if the government really wants to deliver then frankly it needs to up its game and negotiate hard.

Amnesty is out there in force. Verity Coyle, the Arms Campaign Manager, and Olly Sprague, Amnesty’s Arms Programme Director, have been joined today by Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty UK, and Eulette Ewart of this parish. They will be working around the clock to try and persuade as many people as possible about the importance of getting a Treaty that is worthy of the name.

The key for Amnesty is the so-called Golden Rule. Simply put if there is even the slightest suspicion that the deal might lead to the arms being used for human rights abuses then the transfer should not go ahead.

My message to the UK Government is simple: Now is the time for determined action.

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