Amnesty urges global pledge on small weapons sales

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LONDON: World governments should pledge to actively prevent sales of weapons that are likely to be used in human rights violations in a new arms treaty under negotiation, Amnesty International said Wednesday.

Whether used by the military in Myanmar to disperse protesters in September 2007, or by Somali armed factions terrorizing the streets of Mogadishu, the human rights group warned small weapons had catastrophic effects worldwide.

The system of national laws regulating arms sales is a shambles, Amnesty said in a new report, enabling unrestrained weapons trading that allows massive violation of human rights to occur.

Although 153 countries voted for a UN motion to start work on a global arms treaty in December 2006, Amnesty accused the United States – which rejected the motion -China, Egypt, India, Pakistan and Russia of stalling.

UN member states are due to discuss progress on the treaty next month.

Despite the massive green light from most of the world community, a small minority of skeptics want to keep the status quo shambles so they can turn a blind eye to blatantly irresponsible arms transfers, rendering most national arms controls and UN arms embargoes weak and ineffective, said Amnesty s arms control manager, Brian Wood.

The report, “Blood at the Crossroads, catalogues some of the devastation caused by light weapons in nine countries, including in Darfur, Colombia, Guatemala and Guinea, and highlights Iraq as a particular problem.

The US Department of Defense has funded most of the supply of more than one million rifles, pistols and infantry weapons for 530,000 Iraqi security personnel in a poorly managed and unaccountable process since 2003, it says.

It complains that the contracting out of these weapons deals makes it virtually impossible for those authorizing weapons and munitions transfers to accurately document how many were supplied and to whom.

This mismanagement has contributed significantly to the sectarian violence that has wracked the country since the 2003 US-led invasion, it said.

Governments can either carry on ignoring the horrific consequences of irresponsible international arms transfers or they can meet their obligations in an arms trade treaty with a golden rule on human rights that will actually help save people’s lives, said researcher Helen Hughes. -AFP

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