Amnesty International human rights activists hang a ban […]
(MintPress) – More than 103 U.N. member states are calling for stronger regulations to be added to the latest international arms trade treaty draft, which had been revised last year to fit U.S. and Chinese demands.
The treaty represents the first of its kind, aimed at regulating the international sale of weapons. It takes direct aim at the $70 billion arms industry, which includes international trade of assault rifles, handguns, attack helicopters and tanks.
The aim is to prohibit the transfer of weapons to areas where arms are “at risk” to be used to carry out human rights violations, including nations like Sierra Leone, where more than 500,000 innocent people have been killed since 1991, when its civil war erupted. Worldwide, Oxfam estimates that one person every minute is killed in armed conflict — fueled by the international arms trade.
The U.S. is the world’s top arms producers, which makes its involvement in the treaty vital to the success of the treaty. In July, President Barack Obama refused to sign the treaty, calling for its revision. Regardless of his statements, the ratification process requires Congressional approval, which is not likely considering both Democratic and Republican allegiance to the National Rifle Association (NRA), which has lobbied heavily against the treaty.
The NRA represents the gun manufacturing industry in the United States, which dominates the global market, making money off arms trade sales throughout the world. Those in support of the treaty claim companies are now able to do so without an effective monitoring system, which the treaty is intended to create.
In July 2012, leaders from around the world gathered in New York to draft the treaty, intended to stop the free flow international arms used to fuel the globe’s deadliest conflicts. Yet the final draft wasn’t to the liking of the U.S., causing a revision intended to appease the United States through the elimination of ammunition trade regulations.
In December, the U.N. General Assembly set Thursday as the deadline for a new, revised version. A preliminary release of that draft Friday left human rights organizations dissatisfied and critical of what they claim is a watered-down version of a once-effective draft.
“This treaty is not good enough,” Oxfam’s Head of Arms Control, Anna McDonald, said at a March 22 press conference. “This is not the treaty that we have been campaigning for for 10 years. This is not the treaty that is going to save lives and protect people. The loopholes must be closed.”
At that same press conference, Jonathan Frerichs, programs executive at the World Council of Churches, told reporters the new draft favored arms producers, rather than victims of violence.
“It looks much more like a producers’ and exporters’ treaty than it does a peoples’ treaty,” Frerichs said.
The treaty does not address ammunition — a key criticism of those lobbying for a robust treaty. It has been amended to include the language “at a minimum” when discussing the regulations of arms sales, applied only to light weapons, small arms, missile launchers, warships, attack helicopters, combat aircraft, large-caliber artillery systems and tanks, according to the Associated Press. Drones, tear gas and grenades are also argued to be left out of these standards.
It also fails to apply to all international transfer of arms, including those part of “gift” or “aid” packages, creating a potential loophole to funnel weapons outside of the proposed regulatory process.
During negotiations in July, Amnesty International made the same claims, urging the U.S. to close loopholes that compromised the effectiveness of the treaty.
“The devil is in the detail and if the existing loopholes are left open and the rules are not strengthened, these could easily be exploited to allow arms to be supplied to those that intent to use them to commit serious human rights violations, as the world is seeing in Syria,” Brian Hood, head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International said in a press release.
While the U.S. has remained silent on the issue, reports have indicated the U.S. has been a part of the transfer of weapons to Syrian rebels.
The process was criticized heavily by pro-gun lobbyists, including the National Rifle Association (NRA), which indicated ratification of the treaty would threaten Second Amendment rights in the United States.
“The only way to address the NRA’s objections is to simply and completely remove civilian firearms from the scope of the treaty,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said in April at a U.N. Arms Trade Treaty conference. “That is the only solution. On that, there will be no compromise.”
Supporters of the treaty claim the language doesn’t speak to U.S. civilian possession of weapons; instead, it focuses on those who produce the weapons in the United States, whom the NRA also represents.
In this scenario, the NRA — and the U.S. — is in the company of Syria, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Cuba and Venezuela, who represent the global opposition to the treaty.