Gun control and the speech Obama hasn’t given

There is less than a week to go before world leaders meet at the United Nations to negotiate an international Arms Trade Treaty.

If delivered effectively, the Arms Trade Treaty has the potential to save lives and prevent human rights abuses.  85% of all killings documented by Amnesty International involve the sort of weaponry which could and should be covered by the Treaty.

Amnesty has published a new briefing today looking at the global impact of the arms trade. It highlights how the UK, the USA, China, France and Russia – the permanent members of the UN Security Council – are responsible for half of the world’s global arms trade and how arms transfers from these countries are likely to be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations. 

It refers to how Syria has historically received its weapons and ammunition from Russia and continues to do so.  It also highlights how foreign brokers use front companies in the UK to assist in the supply of weapons and ammunition to countries where they are likely to be used for human rights violations.  Between 2007 and 2008, for example, large consignments of Ukrainian tanks, small arms and light weapons were delivered to South Sudan via a UK “brass-plate company”. These battle tanks were later seen being used in civilian-populated areas in South Sudan’s Mayom County.

That’s why the Arms Trade Treaty is so important – it could prevent weapons ending up where they are likely to be used to execute extra-judicially, torture, or maim people.

Last July we were on the verge of seeing that vision realised via negotiations at the UN. It was stopped at the last minute by countries – including the United States during an election year and under domestic pressure from gun lobby, the National Rifles Association – wanting to have more time to think about it.

They’ve had more time.  Next week, it’s time for countries to agree and decide a treaty which can really be effective. We will need the UK government to continue fighting for a strong Treaty and we need them to commit to closing the loopholes in the draft text. You can help by emailing your MP today.

Maybe then we’ll hear this speech from President Obama – the speech he still hasn’t given.