Drive launched for tough arms control

Amnesty International and Oxfam have joined forces in a major campaign to get the world's first arms trade treaty in place by 2006.

    Weaponry is easily available in many countries world-wide

    The two organisations said they want to stop small arms and light weapons from being exported to countries where they are likely to be used to commit violations of human rights and humanitarian law.
    In a report titled “Shattered Lives: The Case for Tough International Arms Controls,” they said they want a treaty to ban such exports in place by 2006 - the year that the United Nations is next due to discuss light arms.
    The groups installed a lifesize graveyard in central London’s Trafalgar Square to  publicise the initiative. The cemetery represented the estimated 500,000 people who die each year from “armed violence” worldwide. 

    World-wide campaign
    The campaign against small arms - defined as anything from a pistol to an assault rifle - was being extended to 65 countries by the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA).
    “The arms trade is totally out of control,” Oxfam director Barbara Stocking told a press conference in London, AFP reported.

    “International arms supplies to those responsible for gross human rights abuses send a message that the behaviour of such groups is tolerated, even supported, by the international community”

    Report entitled "Shattered Lives: The Case for Tough International Arms Controls"

    Weapons are recycled, changing hands “in a climate of total impunity,” said Conmany Wesseh, Liberian-born co-founder of IANSA, which aims to stop proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons.
    The result of this impunity, campaigners said, is that 639 million light weapons circulate around the world - roughly one for every 10 people on Earth.
    What’s more, a further 8 million weapons and 16 billion rounds of ammunition are produced each year.

    Security Council accused 

    Amnesty director Irene Khan accused the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- of “hypocrisy,” as together they account for 88% of all conventional arms exports.

    Britain, France and the US have also made more money in the last four years from arms exports to Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and South America than they have offered the regions in humanitarian aid, Khan said.
    Global arms exports have a value of about $21 billion each year and as a result the military lobby has a weighty argument for convincing government not to tighten controls too much.

    The report also took aim at the US-led war on terror, saying it had allowed weapons suppliers to relax their controls in order to arm “new-found allies against terrorism, irrespective of their disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law.”
    “International arms supplies to those responsible for gross human rights abuses send a message that the behaviour of such groups is tolerated, even supported, by the international community.”

    The report said that in Iraq there were thought to be 24 million guns in June 2003, enough to arm every man, woman and child and that they could be bought for around $10 each.
    It also described the effect unexploded ordnance has had on communities once a war has finished, preventing access to homes, roads and fields and stopping people rebuilding their country.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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