Artists write to UN leader Ban Ki-moon on “a matter of life and death”

July 2 2012, 1:05 AM  by Rosie Cowling

International artists including Keira Knightley, Yoko Ono, Scarlett Johansson, Coldplay, Tim Roth, Annie Lennox and Kevin Spacey have joined forces to demand governments take immediate action to help improve regulation of the international arms trade.

In a letter addressed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, more than 30 high-profile Oxfam and Amnesty Internationalsupporters urge governments to deliver a meaningful and strong treaty that will save lives by stopping the deadly and poorly regulated global trade of arms which allows irresponsible users to violate international humanitarian law, leading to conflict, poverty and human rights abuses. 

Later today, representatives from more than 190 governments meet in New York for the first day of a month-long negotiation at the United Nations to agree an Arms Trade Treaty, which will control the supply of weapons, ammunition and armaments.

 The letter states:

Every year an average of two bullets for every person on this planet is produced. With so few global rules governing the arms trade, no one really knows where all those bullets will end up – or whose lives they will tear apart.

Under the current system, there are less global controls on the sales of ammunition and guns than on bananas and bottled water. It’s a ridiculous situation.

As supporters of Amnesty International and Oxfam, we urge governments to step forward and deliver a robust, effective treaty that protects human rights. A treaty that puts a stop to the needless deaths and injuries which occur every day as a result of armed violence and conflict. The decisions taken around this treaty really are a matter of life and death.”

The ‘Golden Rule’:

An effective Arms Trade Treaty would be based on a “Golden Rule”: if there is a substantial risk that arms exported to another country are likely to be used for serious human rights abuses; violations of international humanitarian law; or to undermine sustainable development, those arms supplies must be stopped.

Among the supporters writing is Paul Conroy, the British war photographer injured in the mortar attack that killed Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin and French photo journalist Remi Ochlik, in Homs, Syria, earlier this year. He saw first hand the damage done when weapons provided by arms dealers (in this case Russia) fall into the hands of people who indiscriminately kill civilians.