Dear Mr Obama: Letter to the US president pressing for a strong ATT

May 24 2012, 8:13 AM  by Rosie Cowling

Control Arms is one of 50 humanitarian groups and organisations that has signed a letter to US President Barack Obama, urging him and his administration to “play a strong leadership role” in the negotiations in July and to “spare no effort to seize the historic opportunity to negotiate a robust, bullet-proof Arms Trade Treaty”.

In the letter, the groups note that: “Thousands of civilians around the globe are slaughtered each year by weapons that are sold, transferred by governments or diverted to unscrupulous regimes, criminals, illegal militias, and terrorist groups. The lack of high common international standards in the global arms trade also raises the risks faced by United States military and civilian personnel working around the globe.”

“To be effective, the new Arms Trade Treaty must include legally-binding criteria outlining that states ‘shall not’ transfer weapons or ammunition where there is a substantial risk they will be used to violate international human rights or humanitarian law,” says Scott Stedjan, Senior Policy Advisor for Humanitarian Response for Oxfam America.

The letter urges the Obama administration to support several key factors which are critical to an effective treaty:

  • Strong Criteria Explicitly Linked to Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law—“The ATT must prevent states from transferring conventional arms in contravention of UN arms embargoes and when it is determined there is a substantial risk the items will be used for serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law.”
  • Comprehensive Coverage—“For the ATT to be effective, the ATT must apply to the broadest range of conventional arms possible—from military aircraft to small arms—as well as all types of international trade, transfers, and transactions in conventional weaponry. The ATT should also specifically require that national laws regulate the activities of international arms brokers and other intermediaries.”
  • Include Ammunition in the Scope of the Treaty—“An ATT that does not regulate ammunition would be like a gun without bullets. The world is already full of guns. It is the constant flows of ammunition that feeds and prolongs conflicts and armed violence. The exclusion of ammunition from the scope of the treaty would greatly reduce its ability to achieve many of its most important goals.”

U.S. officials have said the administration supports the inclusion of small arms and light weapons in the treaty. On ammunition, Ann Ganzer, director of the Office of Conventional Arms Threat Reduction at the Department of State said: “We do not have a problem with the regulation of ammunition. The United States licenses the manufacturing, import, and export of ammunition. The issue comes in with some of the other requirements of the treaty—reporting requirements.”

According to a recent report published by Oxfam, more than $2.2 billion worth of arms and ammunition have been imported since 2000 by countries operating under arms embargoes. The figures show the extent to which states have been flagrantly flouting the 26 UN, regional, or multilateral arms embargoes in force during this period.

Read the letter in full below and online:

Bloomberg: “Humanitarian Groups Push for ‘Bulletproof’ Arms Treaty

Arms Control Association: “Fifty Organizations Urge President Obama to Pursue Robust and Effective Global Arms Trade Treaty

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