Viktor Bout Trial: Legal vacuum shows need for robust global arms trade agreement

January 25 2011, 7:11 AM by Oistein Thorsen

New York: Arms traffickers can too easily navigate the patchwork of
national arms regulations, fuelling conflict while avoiding arrest and
extradition, because of the lack of global regulation of the arms trade,
says international agency Oxfam.

The agency says the case against alleged arms trafficker Viktor Bout shows
why international rules on arms trading are so desperately needed.

A Russian citizen, Mr Bout’s pre-trial opens in New York on Friday (21
January). He is alleged to have sold arms and ammunition for nearly 20
years into some of the world’s worst war zones including Afghanistan,
Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and
Sudan.

Oxfam, which is campaigning for a global deal to regulate the arms trade,
says that international law should make it clear that no country can allow
the kind of arms brokering activities Mr Bout is accused of, selling arms
that perpetuate terrorism and contribute to violations of international
human rights and international law.

“Regardless of whether Viktor Bout is found guilty or not, the need for
global rules on arms trade has never been greater. Despite numerous
accusations, there has been no mechanism to stop him carrying out these
activities,” said Oistein Thorsen of Oxfam in New York.

“Unscrupulous arms traders are experts at exploiting these legal loopholes
– and without a binding treaty that regulates the global arms trade, we’re
just making it too easy for them to continue to do so. Even if one arms
dealer faces trial, there are still dozens operating freely in this grey
area of international law.”

Oxfam says that a robust international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) which is now
being negotiated at the United Nations would finally put an end to the
legal vacuum that arms traffickers are thriving within.

Oistein Thorsen: “How can we have strict international laws that regulate
the trade of bananas and iPods, but allow traders of deadly weapons to go
unchecked? We need a set of laws that would hold every actor involved in
trading of arms – from the exporter, to the broker to the end-user –
accountable to the same high standards.”