Arms control: UN urged to seize once in a lifetime opportunity
Amnesty International made a direct appeal on Wednesday to governments negotiating a potentially historic Arms Trade Treaty urging them to remember a strong agreement could save millions of lives.Seydi Gassama, Director of Amnesty International Senegal, addressed diplomats currently locked in crucial talks at the UN in New York about a potential deal that could end the irresponsible and poorly regulated arms trade. Gassama told the officials to show “the vision to ensure that this once in a lifetime opportunity is not squandered… to put an end to the body-bag approach to arms control, where embargoes are imposed only after the killing has already gone on far too long”. Millions of people are killed, injured, raped, repressed and forced to flee their homes every year as a result of the irresponsible and poorly regulated arms trade. Gassama spoke alongside partners in the Control Arms coalition, ensuring that the voice of millions of people calling for a strong treaty that protects human rights was heard directly by those responsible for reaching a deal by the end of the month. As the negotiations were taking place, the UN Security Council was being briefed on the latest situation in Syria and was also being urged to protect civilians in the escalating conflict in Eastern DR Congo. The loss of civilian life and suffering in both these countries is a stark reminder to governments as to why a robust Arms Trade Treaty that can help prevent many more millions of civilians being killed and lives devastated in the future is needed.“It should be unthinkable that governments can choose to supply weapons, munitions, armaments and other arms to governments where the likelihood of those arms being used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations,” Gassama told officials. There are currently no comprehensive legally binding international rules governing the global trade in conventional arms, and gaps and loopholes are common in both national and regional controls. Amnesty International wants to see a ‘Golden Rule’ for regulating arms transfers. This rule would require all states considering an international transfer of arms to first carry out a rigorous risk assessment based on objective information to ensure that there is not a substantial risk those arms would be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of human rights, including crimes under international law. If there is a substantial risk of such violations, the transfer must not take place.