Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Arms Trade Treaty Ineffective

Diplomats from over 100 countries met in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday to discuss why the United Nations' landmark Arms Trade Treaty (ATT),which came into force three years ago, has so far failed to stop the flow of weapons to the world's war zones. The treaty was championed by arms companies - not exactly a sign that it was particularly tough.

Celebrated as a paradigm shift in the regulation of the international arms trade, the ATT now looks like a disappointment, according to statements issued by NGOs instrumental in campaigning for it and then drawing it up.

"About half a million people are killed every year by firearms, and millions more are trapped in brutal conflicts fueled by reckless arms sales," James Lynch, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International, said in a statement. "The Arms Trade Treaty promised to save countless lives by reigning in this massive, secretive industry, but at the moment weak implementation and a lack of transparency are threatening to undermine it."

Amnesty's Rasha Abdul Rahim, explained, " We are really concerned with the business-as-usual approach that we're seeing with some state parties. We're frustrated that we're not seeing as robust and transparent regulation of the arms trade as we would like." Amnesty listed several examples of countries signing the treaty and then ignoring it. For instance, France, the UK, and Italy, who all ratified the ATT in April 2014, have carried on sending all kinds of conventional weapons to Egypt while the government there continues to brutally crack down on dissent by killing and torturing thousands of protesters. The most egregious single example of an ATT signatory ignoring the treaty is the UK's recent $4.7-billion (3.9-billion-euro) arms deal with Saudi Arabia, a country that has been leading a relentless bombing campaign in the Yemen Civil War since 2015.

Andrew Smith, spokesman for the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), said "We aren't aware of any arms exports that have actually been stopped by the ATT," he said. "It's evident that the treaty is too weak to make any meaningful difference...It's not entirely clear from reading it who would enforce the rules or how they would be enforced, or what would happen to anyone who broke them."

According to Sally Copley, Oxfam Britain's head of campaigns, Yemen is currently suffering "the world's worst humanitarian crisis," involving both a "borderline famine" and a massive cholera epidemic. "When you are witness to the suffering in Yemen it is hard to understand or excuse how the UK government talks the talk on arms control while it walks the walk of arms sales," Copley said in a statement. "On the one hand it fuels a war with massive arms sales while it sends aid to help the people it is harming."

 Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) figures show exports to Saudi Arabia made up 48 percent of the UK's arms exports from 2012 to 2016, while in May this year the US agreed a $110 billion worth of potential arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Those deals included $4.6 billion worth of guided air-to-ground munitions—a total of 104,000 bombs of the type that have been used in the Yemen war. Other deliveries in 2015-16 included 13,726 anti-tank missiles; 3,870 guided bombs; 60 combat helicopters and 1,279 armored vehicles and four fighter ground attack aircraft.

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