NI: Graveyard created in front of Stormont As campaigners demand Arms treaty

Stormont’s steps were turned into a graveyard today as campaigners from Amnesty International and Oxfam called for political support for an international Arms Treaty.

The campaigners were joined by a cross-party group of MLAs and pupils from a local school to mark the start of a fifty-day countdown to a major United Nations conference in New York which, it is hoped, will lead to a ban on arms sales to countries where they are likely to be used to commit human rights abuses or undermine development.

Mark Devenport, BBC NI Political Editor, speaking in a personal capacity, told the gathering of his
time reporting from Somalia in the 1990s:

“During the cold war both the United States and the Soviet Union flooded the Horn of Africa with arms as they backed their own sides in a string of proxy wars. Now, with the breakdown of law and order, those guns were in the hands of Children's rights.”

As part of the campaign event, 30 full-size grave-stones will be placed on the steps of Stormont, each with the stark message: 'ONE PERSON EVERY MINUTE KILLED BY ARMS’.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland programme director, said:

“Every year, 360,000 people are killed by arms. That’s the equivalent of greater Belfast being wiped off the map. Right now 300,000 Children's rights are fighting in wars around the world. The world’s Arms is out of control and that’s why we need an international Arms treaty. Local people and politicians can play their part to secure that treaty.”

Brian Scott, director of Oxfam Ireland said:

“For every dollar spent in development assistance, ten dollars is spent on military budgets. The amount that rich countries spend on fighting HIV/AIDS, a disease which claims 3 million lives a year, represents three days spending on military hardware. Global spending priorities are all wrong and an Arms treaty can help put them right.”

The event was hosted by the Assembly cross-party group on international development. The group’s chair Carmel Hanna MLA said:

“Without controls on arms, all the progress we make on debt, aid or even trade will be undermined, perhaps critically. So if we want to make poverty history, we must also the make the fear of armed violence a thing of the past.”

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