Effective Arms Trade Treaty? It’s all in the scope

By Oliver Sprague, Programme Director Arms, Amnesty International UK, writing from the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations in New York

It is self evident that to control the arms trade you have to control the things that kill, maim and brutalize people. You also have to control the ways that different types of weapons are irresponsibly supplied to governments that commit serious human rights abuses.

In other words, if you want a treaty that really is going to save lives, protect and uphold human rights, you need to have a pretty comprehensive definition of what it is you are going to control.
Self evident as it maybe, several states present for the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) negotiations in New York want to narrow the scope of the treaty.

Iran for example, in its statement, said the Arms Trade Treaty should not cover small arms, ammunition, missiles, weapons technology and weapons parts and components.

The US continues to argue against ammunition being included in the ATT and Egypt told delegates that if the Treaty was to help save lives, small arms – the category of weapons that kills most people – should be left out.

Obviously if such views prevail, we’ll have an arms trade treaty that’s very light on the actual weapons part.

Today I was addressing conference delegates at an Amnesty lunch time meeting sponsored by the French government, to remind them of why a comprehensive scope is important to achieve an effective treaty.

I was speaking alongside Sergio Finardi, from Transarms, an expert in arms transportation and Georges Guillermou from Action Sécurité Ethique Républicaines (ASER), a retired superintendent in the French National Police and Security Human Rights Expert for the Council of Europe.

A main focus of my intervention was to ensure that governments did not exclude weapons used for internal security including things like tear gas, rubber bullets and specialist crowd control vehicles.

Recent experience in MENA has shown how devastating the misuse of this equipment has been in brutal crackdowns by several of the region’s governments against their own populations.

It’s important to remember that this equipment, as well other disputed categories like ammunition, small arms, parts, components, weapons related technologies and production equipment is already controlled under the arms exporting systems of nearly all arms producing states so it makes no real sense that governments continue to argue against their own existing national practice, especially given the appalling human suffering that results from irresponsible trading in these items.

Read More:Olly Sprague (Blog profile, Amnesty International UK)