All entries for January 2005

January 03, 2005

Arms Control

Information taken from

As arms kill one person in the world every minute, this is a problem worth giving our attention too!
I have saved you time by summarising a document called ‘Shattered Lives : the case for tough international arms control’ which was published by Amnesty International and Oxfam in 2003 and is 90 pages long. My summary should present the key ideas and help to illustrate the world arms problem, it’s dangers, and suggest action which we can take to gain further control of the situation.

The five permanent members of the Security Council – France, Russia, UK, USA and China – account for 88% of the world’s conventional arms exports, and these exports regularly contribute to great violations of human rights.

FACTS AND STATS – There are approx 639 million small arms in the world today, produced by over 1000 companies in 98 countries. 8 million new weapons are produced every year. Nearly 60% of small arms are in civilian hands. In 2001 alone more than 16 billion units of military ammunition were produced, enough for at least 2 bullets to every man, woman and child in the entire world.
Weapons possession is becoming more widespread and destructive in many societies.
Violence escalates as more people own guns and traditional controls break down.
The ‘war on terror’ has fundamentally shifted some governments policies. More arms are being exported with little regard for the recipient’s past track record of human rights, simply because they may now share a common enemy.
By 2020 the numbers of deaths and injuries from war and violence will overtake those caused by killer diseases such as malaria and measles.
Private military companies contracted on behalf of governments or opposition forces play an increasing role in the provision of arms around the world. In one case, the same company supplied arms to both sides in the Sierra Leone conflict.
The USA dominates the industry, contributing 45% of the world’s exported weapons!
FACT - From 1998 to 2001, the USA, the UK, and France earned more income from arms sales to developing countries than they gave in aid.

HYPOCRISY – It’s shocking that while governments in rich countries are happy to sell arms to countries that commit gross violations of human rights, they aren’t quite so accommodating when it comes to welcoming asylum-seekers from those same countries. Of the more than one million asylum applications lodged to the EU between 2000 and 2002, the highest numbers were from Iraq, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Turkey. EU states exported weapons to all these countries during the 1980s and 1990s.

CASE STUDY – The Americans supplied military aid to the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan until 1991 despite the fact that thousands of Afghan citizens were being unlawfully killed. Some of these arms were subsequently used by the Taliban and Northern Alliance who committed serious human rights abuses.
CASE STUDY – Covert arms shipments to the Anti-Vietnamese factions in Cambodia began in the late 1970s by China and the USA. Around 500,000 small arms are believed to remain in Cambodia today
CASE STUDY – The Israel/Palestine conflict. During the 1990s, Israel was the largest recipient of US-exported military rifles, including M16s.
CASE STUDY – In June 2003 there were thought to be 24 million guns in Iraq – enough to arm the entire population, and they could be bought for $10 a piece.
CASE STUDY – The UK, USA, France, Germany, Canada and Italy have all supplied enormous amounts of arms to Saudi Arabia despite knowing that it’s authorities permit no criticism of the state, that all political organisations are illegal and that thousands of political and religious people are being arbitrarily detained.
CASE STUDY – During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s America supplied Iraqis with military intelligence, advice and weaponry and it even used a Chilean company to supply cluster bombs.

QUOTE – “We can’t have it both ways. We can’t be both the world’s leading champion of peace and the world’s leading supplier of arms.” Former US President Jimmy Carter, presidential campaign, 1976

THE DEFENSE – Many arms-exporting governments, including the UK, cite the importance of the arms industry for the country’s economy and claim that a tightening of arms control to suit humanitarian legislation would result in serious economic damage. Yet the Ministry of Defence Economists disagree and believe that a one-off adjustment would be made (an economic cost of £2 billion), that would mean job losses, but that these could be compensated for elsewhere.

TONY BLAIR QUOTE – “What would actually happen if we refused to sell parts is not that the parts wouldn’t be supplied, is that you would find every other defence industry in the world rushing in to take the place that we have vacated” (when asked why Britain were selling parts to Israel when there had been clear evidence that they were being used directly against civilians). Hardly a moral answer – If we don’t do it, someone else will.

There are currently no biding laws or regulations that oblige arms-exporting states to respect international human rights when authorising the transfer of arms to other countries.
The availability of arms should be reduced

THE SOLUTION – All Governments must co-operate to control and limit the flow of arms and the spread of arms production. Arms exporters should certainly not export to agencies or countries likely to use the arms to violate international human rights.
Governments are being urged to commit to a new Arms Trade Treaty by 2006 to prevent arms being exported to countries which could abuse them dangerously.
The Arms Trade Treaty would be an international means of control. Arms exports would be in breach of international law if the exporter had reasonable knowledge (or ought to have done) that the arms might be used to violate humanitarian law. It gives any state exporting arms a sense of responsibility – they become morally culperable! The state has clear responsibilities to ensure the arms are used in a manner consistent with respect to human rights. The Arms Trade Treaty would be legally binding.

A STARTING POINT – Join the ‘Million Faces’ Petition on the Control Arms website to add your voice to an international call for better control of arms and to voice your support for the Arms Trade Treaty!

Landmines – a summary of the issue and problem

All the facts on this page have been taken from

I feel passionately about this issue, particularly since visiting Cambodia, which I believe is the country with the most landmines. Every day that I was there the paper had stories about deaths resulting from unexploded landmines. All the tourists were warned never to stray from unmarked paths and populated spaces, so grave are the dangers of these mines. Yet the local people are poor and have no alternative but to go out and work the land, risking their lives daily. Dismembered people and amputees are everywhere in Cambodia and it’s harrowing to see. Even on the beaches, legless people would lie by your deckchair begging for money. Their injuries make them redundant in a country of subsistence living. Landmines need clearing all round the world, NOW! Please do what you can to support mine clearance and pressure governments to cease production of such weapons. Here is the situation –

Firstly, a definition of an anti-personnel mine is that it is victim-activated and thu cannot discriminate between civilians and combatants.
20,000 casualties occur every year from unexploded ordnance and landmines (that’s around 40 a day)
85% of all injured children die before reaching a hospital
Landmines are a developmental disaster as they deny people the use of their own land and resources.
82 countries are affected by landmines. Only a few render land unusable, and it only takes one to end a human life.
The most affected territories include: Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia, Cambodia, Eritrea, Iraq, Laos, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Sudan.
In 2003, countries where mines were still used included: Burma, Burundi, Columbia, India, Iraq, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia (Chechnya), Somalia, Sudan and Nepal.

The Ottawa Treaty was set in motion in March 1999 and it bans the use of anti-personnel mines around the world, obliges member countries to destroy stockpiles within four years and clear their own territory within ten years. It also urges governments to help poorer countries clear land and assist landmine victims.
To date, 143 states have joined the Ottawa Treaty. A further nine have signed but not yet ratified. Those who have still not signed include the US, Russia, China, Pakistan, Finland and India. Forty two countries are yet to join the Treaty. China, Russia and the United States comprise three of the five members of the UN Security Council and they still haven’t signed. Russia continues to use anti-personnel mines in Chechnya.
The US can still use anti-personnel mines until 2010 by presidential instruction, but have not done so since 1997.
The UK signed up, but has still not met it’s obligation to clear landmines in the Falkland Islands. This is not an example to set.

Unexploded cluster bombs have similar effects to landmines, and are killing civilians in many countries, but are currently not banned or covered by any humanitarian law. Any weaponry that causes these kind of indiscriminate deaths should be stopped (the UK still manufactures mines that can be triggered by civilians and yet it claims that they are not included in the Treaty).

January 2005

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