This July, governments across the world will draw up the world’s first ever Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Let’s make sure it’s tough enough to disarm dictators, warlords and human rights abusers.
We’ve recently seen Syrian soldiers turning their guns and missiles on their own people – men, women and children shot down in cold blood. We’ve seen dictators like Colonel Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein, whose regimes tortured, murdered and raped so many men and women. We know of countries like Somalia, where children are given AK-47s to fight and kill, or the Democratic Republic of Congo, where soldiers and members of armed groups rape women and men at gunpoint.
These are not big arms producing countries. They rely almost entirely on buying weapons from abroad. What if none of them had been able to buy their deadly weapons? What if there was a legally binding treaty that meant no arms could ever be sold to anyone who was likely to use them to commit human rights abuse?
If such treaty existed, it could literally save hundreds of thousands of lives and prevent human rights atrocities across the world.
After 20 years of campaigning by various human rights organizations, this treaty is on the verge of becoming a reality. Governments representatives from around the world are meeting at the United Nations in July to negotiate the text of the Arms Trade Treaty.
This treaty has many facets, but it has to make absolutely clear that arms sales must not be authorized if they are likely to contribute directly to serious human rights abuses. If this statement is not clearly included, the treaty will be a failure and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rein in abuse will be lost.
Amnesty International, one of the organizations which conceived the idea of an International Arms Trade Treaty two decades ago, is campaigning in the UK and abroad to make sure the treaty is as effective as it could be. Amnesty activists will be traveling to the UN at the end of June to insure that human rights are not traded away at the final crucial negotiations, and they are now putting pressure on our government and David Cameron in particular to support a human rights based treaty.
This treaty, says Amnesty’s Arms Trade Campaigner Olly Sprague, could be “one of the most significant human rights breakthroughs in history.”
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