Who's arming who? | Press release me, let me go | 1 Nov 2011 | Amnesty International UK

Who's arming who?

There are so many news reports about guns today.  

The Daily Mail Online has a fascinating story about how in the last three years more than 30 children under the age of ten have been issued with licences for shotguns.  Yes. You read correctly.  Shotguns.  Or to quote from one of my all-time favourite films, "That's right. Guns that fire shots."    The photograph accompanying the report show just how bizarre this is, when the weapon is pretty much the same length as its owner.

Meanwhile, yesterday in court Chelsea FCs owner categorically denied getting rich from dealing in weapons.  The Times reports Roman Abramovich saying, I was never involved in arms trading. In the Russian Federation, arms trade is the prerogative of the State and the State alone.

Now, while it ought to be responsible governments managing and regulating the arms trade, heaps of historical evidence,  ongoing court cases, and decades of bloody conflicts (not to mention Hollywood blockbusters) remind us that illegal weapon-trading is a pretty popular (and lucrative) business.

Moreover, even when some governments decide where to transfer weapons, their decisions are not always the wisest when it comes to respecting human rights.  A recent Amnesty report for example highlighted how the UK, USA, France and other countries sent weapons to Libya, Bahrain and Yemen despite clear signs that these weapons would be used by repressive governments against its own civilians.  

In last weeks G2 Alex Feinstein reported how the UK had sold about 120 million Euros worth of weapons to Colonel Gaddafi since 2005.

Now with reports of a massive amount of weapons piled up in Libya (although no-ones sure just how many) as a result of deals made under Gaddafis rule, the UN has expressed great concern that these weapons could be used to fuel terrorist activities.

Evidently there leaves a whole lot to be desired when it comes to having a stricter international arms trade. It is staggering to think that there are global treaties in place to ensure tight legislation around bananas, postage stamps and dinosaur bones, but not the arms trade. The latest Amnesty TV episode satirically demonstrates the weaknesses of the existing laws to regulate the weapons industry.

Next year, world leaders will negotiate (and hopefully agree) an international arms trade treaty.  Such a treaty is long overdue and well needed. But it can only be effective if clear legislation is in place to ensure that no weapons transfers by any parties are made to countries or regions where there is a great risk of human rights abuses.  

Governments have to get it right next year. If governments can do it for bananas, postage stamps and dinosaur bones, surely they can do it for guns.

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