Tell the Australian Government: Fix the Arms Trade Treaty

Rights in crisis article written on the 26 Jul 2012

There are just two days to go in the negotiations for the world’s first legally binding instrument to control the international trade in conventional arms. While there are currently less international controls on the trade in arms than bananas, the draft text before the UN is riddled with loopholes and ambiguities that will continue to allow arms to fall into the wrong hands.

Australia has been a driving force in the efforts to achieve a strong Arms Trade Treaty, but is now feeling the pressure to accept a watered down instrument that serves the commercial interests of major exporters including the United States, Russia and China.

We need to send an urgent message to the Australian Government that it is not too late change this – if they are serious about a truly life-saving instrument, they need to fix the ‘five top escape clauses’ in the current draft Arms Trade Treaty:

  1. Meaningless references to parts and components and ammunition – meaning that the treaty only explicitly controls guns, but not bullets.
  2. Controls on ‘trade’ and not ‘transfers’ means that weapons that are gifted or provided through military assistance programs can be exempted from controls. Countries could exploit this gap and continue providing arms to human rights abusers by calling them gifts or military aid.
  3. The rules governing arms exports allows states to supply arms to human rights abusers if there is the possibility that it may somehow “contribute to peace and security”.
  4. Regardless of international law, States are allowed to interpret the risk assessment criteria in their own way. This will allow states to ignore serious negative consequences of an arms transfer.
  5. Existing arms contracts can’t be broken by the Treaty. Russia is continuing to supply arms to Syria on the basis of existing arms contracts despite the egregious human suffering caused by these weapons. Under the provisions of the draft Arms Trade Treaty text this state of affairs would still be legitimate.

Send a message to Bob Carr that Australia needs to show leadership and use its influence to fix the holes in the Arms Trade Treaty before it is too late!

We’ve put together a few suggested tweets that you can send directly to Bob Carr:

  • @bobjcarr the draft #ArmsTreaty controls guns but not bullets. Fix the top 5 escape clauses!

  • @bobjcarr under draft #ArmsTreaty, you can give away arms for free to human rights abusers. Fix the top 5 escape clauses!

  • @bobjcarr under draft #ArmsTreaty, contributions to peace and security can be used to ignore human rights. Fix the top 5 escape clauses!

  • @bobjcarr under draft #ArmsTreaty, countries can interpret negative consequences of arms transfers how they see fit. Fix the top 5 escape clauses!