Monday, October 12, 2009

by Suzanne Hoeksema

NEW YORK (IPS) - With 2,000 people dying daily in armed violence fuelled by irresponsible arms transfers, talks to create an international treaty regulating these weapons can no longer be delayed, says a coalition of NGOs in a new report "Dying for Action" published Wednesday.

While nuclear disarmament is high on the UN agenda these days, 90 percent of casualties in conflict areas are caused by small arms such as submachine guns, mortars and hand grenades, according to the Red Cross.

The main contributors to the report, Amnesty International and Oxfam argue that governments should be prevented from exporting arms to countries where there is a substantial risk that those arms will be used for serious human rights violations.

France, one of the main exporters of arms to Guinea, recently ceased all military trade with the West African country after the Guinean army broke up a civilian demonstration on Sep. 28 with extraordinary use of violence, including incidents of rape by soldiers.

A release by Amnesty Thursday said that Guinean police officers had been photographed in the capital Conakry on Oct. 1 carrying 56mm 'Cougar' tear gas grenade launchers, made in France, as well as kinetic impact grenades produced by the same French manufacturer.

France's decision to suspend trade comes too late for the people who have died and suffered from violence, charged Brian Woods of the Military, Security and Police Team at Amnesty International.

Woods urged that the essence of an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), to be discussed by governments at the United Nations in New York this month, should be preventive rather than punitive in order to avert humanitarian crises.

The NGO report shows that around 2.1 million people have died directly or indirectly as a result of armed violence since 153 governments agreed in a 2006 vote on the need to control illegal and illicit small arms trafficking.

The largest producer, supplier and importer of small arms, the United States, voted against the proposal, while 24 countries abstained, including major arms exporters like China and Russia, and major importers like Pakistan and Egypt.

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