ACTION ALERT: Arrest of “Merchant of Death” Shows Need for Global Arms Control

December 5th, 2010 - by admin

Oxfam International – 2010-12-05 22:12:30

Arms Trade: Viktor Bout’s Case No Time to Celebrate

(November 22, 2010) — Arms traffickers can too easily navigate the patchwork of national arms regulations, fueling conflict while avoiding arrest and extradition, because countries have been too weak or reluctant to pass an international arms trade treaty, says international agency Oxfam.

Oxfam says the case this week against alleged arms trafficker Viktor Bout showed why international rules on arms trading are so desperately needed. Bout is alleged to have sold arms and ammunition for nearly 20 years into some of the world’s worst war zones including Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Sudan.

He was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and was extradited this week to stand trial in the US, after two years of legal wrangling for conspiring to provide weapons in support of terrorist groups.

Oxfam, which is campaigning for a global deal to regulate the arms trade, says that international law should make it clear that no country can allow the kind of arms brokering activities Mr Bout is accused of, selling arms that perpetuate terrorism and violate human rights and international law.

There are no comprehensive international legally-binding rules on arms trade. To date, only about 60 countries have established some kind of national legislation on arms brokering. This means that even if the actions of arms dealers like Bout are illegal under US law for instance, they can avoid arrest and extradition by carefully operating in the grey areas between different national jurisdictions.

“Regardless of whether Viktor Bout is found guilty or not, the need for global rules on arms trade has never been greater. Despite numerous accusations, countries have been unable for over 20 years to bring him to justice. Arms traders are experts at exploiting these legal loopholes — and without a binding treaty that regulate global arms trade, we’re just making it too easy for them to continue to do so,” said Scott Stedjan, spokesman for Oxfam’s Control Arms campaign.

“How can we have strict national and international laws that regulate the trade of bananas and mobile phones, but allow traders of weapons and ammunitions to go unchecked?

“We need a set of rules that would hold every actor involved in trading of arms — from the exporter, to the broker to the end-user — accountable to the same high standards. Let’s plug the holes in the patchy international system of arms trade.”

Oxfam says that a robust international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) would finally put an end to the legal vacuum that arms traffickers are thriving within.

The Arms Trade Is Out of Control

There are currently no legally binding, international rules regulating the arms trade.
National controls are rife with gaps and loopholes, making it all too easy for weapons to end up in the hands of those who use them to abuse human rights.

This unregulated arms trade has catastrophic results:
• In an average year, small arms kill around a third of a million men, women and children — and leave hundreds of thousands more injured, disabled, traumatized and grieving

• 2,000 people die each day from armed violence, and hundreds of thousands more are displaced, maimed or loose their livelihood.

This must, and can, be stopped.

What is Oxfam doing about it?
Through the Control Arms campaign which we run jointly with IANSA and Amnesty International, we are calling for a global, legally-binding Arms Trade Treaty, to control this deadly trade. Over one million people have signed our Million Faces Petition, which was presented to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2006. In 2009, work began in earnest on developing a treaty. We are continuing to keep the pressure on to make sure it is effective in saving lives.

ACTION: How you can help
The Million Faces petition is still going strong, with supporters adding their faces every week. Add your face at and send a message to world leaders that we need an effective Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) now.

Campaign successes so far
At the UN General Assembly in December 2006, a huge majority of 153 governments voted in favor of developing an Arms Trade Treaty. The following year, after pressure from Control Arms, over 100 governments responded to a UN Consultation on the ATT.

Three years later in 2009, after pressure from the Control Arms campaign, 153 countries again voted to start negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty, and to conclude negotiations in 2012. This historic step is a major achievement for the millions of campaigners across the world who were asking for negotiations to start immediately.

Despite this success, some governments want to weaken the treaty. We need to keep the pressure on to make sure that they don’t succeed.

World’s Biggest Arms Traders Promise Global Arms Trade Treaty
Ed Pomfret / Oxfam

(November 19, 2009) — At the end of October [2009], after years of discussions and debates at the United Nations, the vast majority of governments — 153 in total — agreed a timetable to establish a “strong and robust” global Arms Trade Treaty with the “highest common standards” to control international transfers of conventional arms.

Most of the world’s biggest arms traders — including the USA, UK, France and Germany – now back the UN process. Nineteen states abstained * but are all expected to take part in the process. Zimbabwe was the only State to vote against it.

Much of the credit for this historic shift should go to the millions of people across the world who took part in the Control Arms campaign calling for a strong and robust Treaty to stop the deadly flow of weapons across borders.

The agreement means that the Arms Trade Treaty will be negotiated in a series of UN meetings concluding at a UN Conference in 2012.

The resolution also highlights the issue of international arms transfers contributing to armed conflict, displacement of people, human rights abuses, organized crime and terrorism, thereby undermining peace, safety, security and sustainable development.

These were all issues that campaigners had wanted to be included — now we go into the next two years needing to keep the pressure up to ensure we have a strong and robust treaty that can save lives.

We are concerned about the procedure planned for the final UN Conference that could give every State the right of veto over the Treaty. This rule change — demanded by the USA — means a small number of skeptical states could be allowed to hijack the Treaty process when it is clear the world wants a strong treaty.

For too long, governments have let the flow of weapons get out of control causing pain, suffering and death in some of the world’s poorest regions. With hundreds of thousands of people dying a year from armed violence, weapons that fall into the hands of criminals and rights abusers destroy communities and livelihoods. This shift to starting serious work on developing a Treaty should help to stop this flood.

The States that abstained were: Bahrain, Belarus, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Iran, Kuwait, Libya, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, UAE, Venezuela and Yemen.

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