Saving Lives with Common Sense: The case for continued US support for the Arms Trade Treaty

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On September 25, 2013 US Secretary of State John Kerry signed the Arms Trade Treaty. The Arms Trade Treaty is a common-sense agreement that will have a positive impact on US security, civilians living in the midst of armed conflict or unstable environments, and poverty alleviation. By signing the Treaty, the Obama Administration took an important step toward a more secure world. Now is the time for the Senate to do its part and support this life-saving Treaty.
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  175 OXFAM BRIEFING PAPER 25 SEPTEMBER 2013 www.oxfam.org  Control Arms campaigners demonstrate in favor of an Arms Trade Treaty in 2012. Control Arms/Andrew Kelly   SAVING LIVES WITH COMMON SENSE The Case for Continued US Support for the Arms Trade Treaty On September 25, 2013 US Secretary of State John Kerry signed the Arms Trade Treaty. The Arms Trade Treaty is a common-sense agreement that will have a positive impact on US security, civilians living in the midst of armed conflict or unstable environments, and poverty alleviation. By signing the Treaty, the Obama Administration took an important step toward a more secure world. Now is the time for the Senate to do its part and support this life-saving Treaty.  2 SUMMARY By signing the Arms Trade Treaty on September 25, Secretary John Kerry took an important step toward a safer and more secure world. The  Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is the first-ever multilateral treaty on the global trade in conventional arms. It is a common sense agreement that establishes standards for the $40 billion legal international weapons trade and seeks to reduce the illicit arms trade. The Treaty offers great benefits to the safety of civilians globally and to US security. It sets clear rules that stigmatize irresponsible arms transfers and will help make it more difficult and expensive for rogue arms dealers to supply weapons to war criminals, human rights abusers, criminals, and potential terrorists. The Arms Trade Treaty applies to the international trade in conventional arms — that is export, import, transit, transshipment, and brokering — and contains no provisions regulating domestic gun sales or use. The Treaty ‟ s life saving potential derives from its four central requirements. First, the Treaty bans absolutely the transfer of arms when the exporter knows the weapons will be used for genocide and other atrocity crimes. The Treaty strictly forbids arms transfers for use in genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Second, the Arms Trade Treaty gives governments a set of steps they must all take prior to transferring arms. Governments must assess the risk of an arms transfer fueling violations of international human rights or international humanitarian law, international organized crime, terrorism, and gender-based violence. If the exporting country finds that the risk of the weapons contributing to such acts is sufficiently high and cannot be mitigated, they may not transfer these arms. Third, the Treaty requires all countries to develop national export and import control systems. While many countries have strong control systems in place, the US Department of State estimates that around 100 countries have either grossly inadequate or non-existent systems. Because national governments often do not effectively control arms flows, at least $2.2 billion worth of arms and ammunition was illegally imported by countries under arms embargoes between 2000 and 2010. Implementing effective national systems is the surest way of preventing unscrupulous arms dealers from trading arms to war criminals and terrorists with impunity. Finally, the Treaty requires governments to be transparent in their arms trade decisions. Without obligations requiring countries to be transparent, the shadowy and secretive global trade in arms and ammunition will continue unabated, fuelling corruption and hindering accountability. Furthermore, transparency is the key to enforcing the Arms Trade Treaty. There is no supranational body entrusted with enforcing the Treaty. Instead, the Treaty will be enforced at national level by national governments. Yet without public information detailing what measures are   3 taken and which transfers are authorized, governments will not be held to account for failing to implement the Treaty. The transparency provisions of the ATT will help other governments, national legislatures, and civil society understand what governments are doing and hold them accountable. There is a strong case to be made for the US Senate giving its consent to ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty. In many ways, existing US law and policy on the arms trade mirror the Arms Trade Treaty. Leaders of both political parties agree that it is in the US national interest to prevent the harm that comes with the illicit and irresponsible arms trade and to further the establishment of a global order that allows for the legitimate transfer of arms. To this end, both Republican and Democratic administrations have pursued multilateral and bilateral efforts to: restrict arms transfers from fueling atrocities; apprehend and bring arms dealers to justice; add transparency to the arms trade; and enhance cooperation on export controls. Yet measures agreed upon before the Arms Trade Treaty have proven inadequate. Without the clear, strong set of global rules found in the  Arms Trade Treaty, governments and other actors will continue to transfer arms to end users that threaten peace, commit abuses, and undermine global efforts to achieve development goals and reduce poverty. Without clear requirements for countries to enact and enforce domestic laws governing arms flows, dealers will continue to find safe havens from which to base their operations and trade arms to war criminals with impunity. Without obligations on transparency, the shadowy and secretive global trade in arms and ammunition will continue unabated, fuelling corruption and hindering accountability. The Arms Trade Treaty offers the United States and the world humanitarian, security, and development benefits. At the same time, the  ATT respects the sovereign right of governments to defend themselves and their allies, and it will not infringe on the legitimate commercial trade of conventional weapons or domestic firearms rights. The Senate should welcome the Arms Trade Treaty and move forward with providing its advice and consent to ratification. President Obama demonstrated strong and conscientious leadership by supporting the Treaty through its development and by signing the agreement. It is now time for the Senate to do its part.  4 1 INTRODUCTION On April 2, 2013, Member States of the United Nations adopted the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) by an overwhelming majority vote of 154 to 3. The Treaty is the first of its kind and will, for the first time, regulate the $40 billion global trade in conventional armaments. 1  US Secretary of State John Kerry signed the Treaty on September 25, 2013. States adopted the ATT because they recognized that the global arms trade is out of control. Although the arms trade is a legitimate business, the illicit and irresponsible trade of arms and ammunition fuels armed conflict, human rights abuses, war crimes, acts of terror, and poverty. The current crisis in Syria provides a deeply saddening case study of why the ATT is vital for saving lives and reducing the impact of armed conflict.  Although the responsibility for the deaths of more than 100,000 people in the Syrian conflict lies at the feet of the belligerents, mass atrocities are all too often, directly or indirectly, supported by outside parties. 2  Governments and non-state actors continue to supply arms and ammunition to both sides of the conflict, despite the severe risks that the weapons will be used to violate international human rights and international humanitarian law. The wars that ravaged West Africa in the 1990s and 2000s are another tragic example of the negative consequences of an unregulated arms trade, and they expose a different yet equally threatening side of the arms trade. Most arms exporters refused to transfer arms to countries that were under UN arms embargoes, such as Sierra Leone and Liberia. 3  However, rogue arms dealers easily exploited weak or non-existent national control systems to send arms to West African conflict zones. One such situation was documented by a UN panel of experts in March 1999. According to the panel, a notorious Ukrainian arms dealer sent 68 tons of Ukrainian weapons to Burkina Faso using false end-user certificates, under a contract organized by a company registered in Gibraltar. Within days of their arrival in Burkina Faso, the weapons were carried to Liberia in an aircraft owned by the arms dealer. The aircraft was registered in the Cayman Islands and was operated by a company registered in Monaco. The weapons were then transferred from Liberia to Sierra Leone, which was at the time in the midst of an 11-year civil war during which massive acts of violence were perpetrated on the civilian population. 4  The arms dealer at the center of this saga, Leonid Efimovich Minin, was arrested in Italy for trafficking arms. Italian officials found documents in his hotel room describing the transfer of nearly 14,000 Kalashnikov rifles and 9 million rounds of ammunition. 5  Minin ‟s arms -trafficking charges were dismissed and he was later released on the grounds that the prosecution lacked jurisdiction, since the arms transfers did not pass through Italy. 6  Flagrant violations of arms embargoes can occur because the international legal regime governing the arms trade has so far been an inadequate patchwork system of national laws, regional initiatives, and country-specific embargoes. National laws governing the arms trade have ranged from
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