Beyond Viktor Bout: Why the United States needs an Arms Trade Treaty | Extradition | Exports

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With the trial of Viktor Bout nearly underway and the UN negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) starting in the summer of 2012, this briefing paper seeks to provide the reader with a deeper understanding of the challenges the US government faces in tackling unscrupulous arms brokers abroad and to show how the adoption of a strong and comprehensive ATT could help the United States and other governments in such efforts. While the United States has brought cases against several well-known arms traffickers, including Mr. Bout, in this period, it has faced serious challenges in halting illegal activity by arms brokers, particularly those based or operating abroad. According to current and former US officials and available information on cases, two of the problems the US government continually encounters in enforcing US laws and in urging governments to stop such brokers are weak national laws related to international arms transfers. A comprehensive ATT could provide the framework to resolve jurisdictional issues allowing illicit brokers to avoid prosecution and encourage greater cooperation between states to stamp out such activities. To close the gaps that allow illicit brokers to operate with few constraints, the US must strongly support and work to craft and effective and robust ATT.
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  156 Oxfam Briefing Paper 6 October 2011 Beyond Viktor Bout: Why the United States needs an Arms Trade Treaty www.oxfam.org    A discarded military tank in Sierra Leone being used to dry washing. During the civil war of 1991–2002, the country was under a UN arms embargo, which arms brokers routinely broke. ©Jane Gibbs/Oxfam   While the high profile trial of Viktor Bout in New York will show some of the threats the world continues to face from unscrupulous private arms brokers, it only provides a glimpse into a much larger problem. Skilled at operating in the shadows and exploiting weak national arms transfer controls, arms brokers have funneled arms to almost every country under a UN arms embargo in the last 15 years, often fueling armed conflict and serious human rights violations. The US has worked on at least 70 US prosecutions in the last five years that have charged defendants with crimes related to illegal arms brokering. Yet, it continues to face difficulties in bringing arms brokers to justice and shutting down criminal networks. The lack of effective legal systems addressing the arms trade in many countries enables illicit arms dealers to exploit regulatory gaps and carry out their activities with impunity. The US and the world need an effective global Arms Trade Treaty to help close these gaps and stop the irresponsible trade in deadly weapons.    2 Summary With the trial of Viktor Bout nearly underway and the UN negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) starting in the summer of 2012, this briefing paper seeks to provide the reader with a deeper understanding of the challenges the US government faces in tackling unscrupulous arms brokers abroad, and to show how the adoption of a strong and comprehensive ATT could help the United States and other governments in such efforts. US attorneys have worked on at least 70 US prosecutions in the last five years that have charged defendants with crimes related to illegal arms brokering. While the United States has brought cases against several well-known arms traffickers, including Mr. Bout, in this period, it has faced serious challenges in halting illegal activity by arms brokers, particularly those based or operating abroad. According to current and former US officials and available information on cases, two of the problems the US government continually encounters in enforcing its laws, and in urging governments to stop such brokers, are weak national laws related to international arms transfers, and a lack of political will. In the past few years, at least five brokers accused of violating US arms export control laws have escaped justice or had their initial US extradition requests rejected for such reasons. Over the past two decades, for instance, US officials reportedly pondered asking several countries to arrest Viktor Bout but struggled with the fact that some of these countries did not have sufficient laws related to arms trafficking, brokering, and/or transportation. As of last year, only 47 percent of the world’s governments have reported that they have basic controls on the import of small arms and light weapons (SALW), a subset of conventional arms. Oxfam and many other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are part of the Control Arms Coalition have called for the creation of a legally-binding ATT to address the inadequacies of the current international arms control system and prevent irresponsible arms transfers. An effective ATT could additionally help to tackle the problem of illicit brokering by imposing higher common international standards upon states to hold companies and individuals in their  jurisdictions accountable for their role in international arms transfers. This should include regulating their conduct and holding them liable where breaches of domestic and international law have occurred. Practically, a comprehensive ATT could provide the framework to resolve jurisdictional issues allowing illicit brokers to avoid prosecution and encourage greater cooperation between states to stamp out such activities. To close the gaps that allow illicit brokers to operate with few constraints, the US must strongly support and work to craft an effective and robust ATT.    3  Abbreviations ATT Arms Trade Treaty AUC United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia DDTC Directorate of Defense Trade Controls EU European Union EUC End-user certificate EXBS Export Control and Related Border Security FARC Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia ICE Immigration Customs and Enforcement IEEPA International Emergency Economic Powers Act IGO Intergovernmental organization ISS Implementation Support System ITAR International Traffic in Arms Regulations LTTE Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam NGO Non-government organization OAS Organization of American States PACER Public Access to Court Electronic Records PrepComs Preparatory Committees PoA Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects RUF Revolutionary United Front SALW Small arms and light weapons UAE United Arab Emirates UNIDIR UN Institute for Disarmament Research UNITA National Union for the Total Independence of Angola  4 1 Introduction In early October 2009, US officials received a tip about a suspicious company called Moonstorm involved in an arms deal with the government of Yemen. According to the Bulgarian government, the UN-blacklisted Serbian arms broker Slobodan Tesic was associated with Moonstorm and was engaged in discussions to sell arms worth $95m, including sniper rifles, anti-aircraft guns, and ammunition to the Yemeni Ministry of Defense. 1  As the quantity of arms appeared more than the Yemeni military needed, US officials were particularly concerned that some of the arms shipment could be diverted to Yemen’s thriving black market. 2  US intelligence reports later indicated that the company, Moonstorm, was in fact a front company for Tesic, and that Tesic visited Yemen several times. 3  With solid evidence of Tesic’s involvement in hand, US officials raised concerns about him with the Serbian and Yemeni governments. The Yemeni government, however, said they did not know the Tesic they were working with was under a UN travel ban, because he was associated with the company Moonstorm, not Temex (the company listed on the UN travel ban). 4  Unable or unwilling to cancel the deal, the Yemeni authorities completed the arms agreement with Tesic. 5  Although the above example shows some of the concerns the US government continues to face from unscrupulous private arms brokers, it only provides a glimpse into a much larger problem. According to the US Department of Justice, “on a daily basis, foreign states as well as criminal and terrorist groups seek arms, technology, and other materials to advance their technological capacity, weapons systems, and, in some cases, weapons of mass destruction programs... posing threats to US allies, US troops overseas, and to Americans at home.” 6  While some arms brokers operate responsibly through legally-approved and transparent procedures, many continue to play leading roles in organizing transfers of US- and foreign-srcin arms for human rights abusers and criminal networks. Skilled at operating in the shadows and exploiting weak national arms transfer controls, arms brokers have funneled arms to almost every country under a UN arms embargo in the last 15 years, often fueling armed conflict and serious human rights violations. In response to the above threats and challenges, the US government has encouraged foreign governments to adopt stronger and more comprehensive national laws and regulations on international arms transfers. As a way to support and reinforce US bilateral efforts, the US government has also participated in and supported regional and multilateral arms agreements covering various types of conventional arms. However, there is still no legally-binding multilateral agreement with a global scope requiring governments to adopt national controls on the international transfer of all conventional arms. The upcoming negotiations at the UN for an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), occurring in summer 2012, offer a unique opportunity to remedy the current state of affairs and assist the US government in its bilateral efforts. If agreed to by governments at the UN, a robust ATT would require all
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