March 9, 2012
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Rt Hon David Cameron MP
10 Downing Street
Dear Mr President and Prime Minister,
Re: Visit by the United Kingdom to the United States of America - Open Letter
We are writing to you both ahead of your forthcoming meeting in Washington, DC, to outline several issues that Amnesty International urges you to discuss.
Firstly, we urge you to discuss the importance of ensuring a successful conclusion to negotiations now underway at the United Nations to adopt a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). We view adoption of the ATT as a historic step towards regulating and preventing arms from being used to commit serious human rights abuses. To this end, we urge you to discuss the roles that the UK and United States can play in ensuring that the treaty advances the protection of human rights.
To achieve its potential, the ATT must require a rigorous case-by-case assessment of all proposed exports, imports and international transfers of conventional arms, and require states party to prevent those transfers where there is a substantial risk of arms being used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. It is crucial that the United States joins the UK in pressing for strong human rights and international law provisions in the ATT.
We are concerned that the United States is seeking to exclude ammunition from the scope of the treaty. We note that U.S. domestic law already regulates the transfer of ammunition under circumstances where it may be used to commit human rights violations, and we urge the United States to back similar provisions in the ATT. We further urge both the United States and the UK to press for a comprehensive scope of arms to be included in the ATT so that it covers all types of weaponry, munitions, armaments and related articles used for potential lethal force in military and law enforcement operations, as well as any parts, components and accessories thereof, and machines, technologies and technical expertise for making, developing and maintaining those articles.
Secondly, given the UK's opposition to the indefinite detention of individuals without charge or trial in Guantánamo Bay, we urge you to discuss the closure of the detention facility and, specifically, the case of Shaker Aamer, who has been detained there for over ten years. While we welcome the UK Government’s commitment to seek the release of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo Bay and his return to his family in the UK, there is no indication that his case is nearing resolution. We urge you to work together to resolve Mr. Aamer’s case, either by charging and fairly trying Mr. Aamer in a federal court, or by agreeing to a specific timetable for his speedy release and return to the UK.
Finally, given the importance of a viable and stable Afghan state to both the UK and the United States, we want to draw your attention to the pressing need to ensure that the rights of women are secured as Afghanistan moves through a transition process. Amnesty International is concerned that the gains made on women's human rights in Afghanistan are fragile, and that they are at grave risk of being eroded. We would therefore urge both the UK and United States governments to support and facilitate the full engagement and representation of Afghan women, in particular at the NATO Summit that will take place in Chicago in May. It is vital that the discussions regarding the transition and improving security in Afghanistan at the Summit address measures to improve the security of Afghan women, including monitoring the status of women and girls as they are transferred to complete Afghan control. Both the UK and United States governments are important champions of women's human rights and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. We therefore encourage greater cooperation between both governments in implementingthe Resolution, specifically through National Action Plans that maximize resources and
efforts to support women's human rights in Afghanistan.
We hope that you are able to discuss these issues in your meeting and we look forward to your response.
Amnesty International USA
Amnesty International UK