Humanitarian, arms control groups urge Obama to close loopholes; support effective Arms Trade Treaty

By jforres

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Major U.S. humanitarian and arms control organizations, including Amnesty International USA, Oxfam America, Arms Control Association, and United to End Genocide, sent a letter to President Barack Obama today urging him and his administration to close the remaining loopholes in the text of the Arms Trade Treaty now under negotiations. The letter also urges the United States to work to persuade other key countries to support the treaty.

A robust and effective Arms Trade Treaty would establish international standards to ban all arms transfers that could facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity, and serious war crimes. It will also close the gaps in the current international system of laws by requiring countries to adopt strong laws that would govern the flow of weapons in and out of their borders.

“The end is in sight for a global arms trade treaty but its success depends on the United States,” said Scott Stedjan, senior policy advisor with Oxfam America. “Washington needs to back a strong text to prevent the negotiations from collapsing.”

The call to action comes one day before negotiations conclude on July 27. If the several loopholes are closed in the next 24 hours, the text of the treaty will provide a solid foundation to end to irresponsible and illicit trade of weapons across borders.

“We urge the United States and other arms exporters to work with others, especially those most affected by violence fueled by illicit arms dealing, to provide the leadership and flexibility to reach an agreement by Friday’s deadline,” said Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Control Arms Association.

“As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton outlined in remarks this week at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial on preventing the mass slaughter of civilians, there must be a new emphasis on prevention,” stated the letter. “As she said, we can ‘directly pressure those who organize atrocities and cut off the resources they need to continue their violence.’”

The letter encourages President Obama to address the following issues:

  • ensure that the treaty requires that states establish national import and export regulations that guard against irresponsible export of ammunition;
  • includes a prohibition on arms transfers to states that they know may be used to commit or facilitate acts of genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity. This would be consistent with the vision outlined in Secretary Clinton's remarks this week;
  • ensure that states are obligated not to transfer weapons if they determine there is a substantial risk that the transfer will be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law;
  • be adjusted to ensure that it addresses all types of arms transfers, not just "exports," and
  • be adjusted so that it does not allow states to exempt arms sales under previous contracts or defense cooperation agreements that pose a serious risk of facilitating violations of international human rights law, international humanitarian law, or international arms embargoes or otherwise violate the object and purpose of the treaty.