(NEW YORK) – With two-thirds of the world's countries supporting a global Arms Trade Treaty, Amnesty International is rallying supporters to urge President Barack Obama to lead a life-saving effort to adopt the treaty when a second round of talks opens at the United Nations in March. On Tuesday, Amnesty International said the treaty was a "call to conscience" for the U.S. administration to protect millions of lives around the world.
For more than a decade, Amnesty International has championed the cause of a global treaty to prevent arms from being sold or traded to dictators, warlords and other human rights abusers, including those who use arms to murder and torture civilians, recruit child soldiers and commit mass rapes in conflict zones.
Amnesty's main domestic opponent in this fight is the gun lobby, including the National Rifle Association. The NRA is riling its supporters with misleading and false claims that the U.N. treaty will threaten U.S. Second Amendment rights when in fact, the treaty will have no bearing on domestic gun rights. The text drafted in July 2012 states explicitly that governments have a "sovereign right to regulate and control arms" within their own territory.
Amnesty International is fighting back against a campaign of deliberate misinformation and lies and is urging President Obama to stand up for the treaty.
"President Obama cannot ignore the plight of millions of civilians who too often are caught in conflicts fueled by unscrupulous arms brokers," said Michelle Ringuette, chief of campaigns and programs at Amnesty International USA. "To stop the carnage, we must have rules to stop weapons from flowing to governments, armed militias and others that could use those weapons in the commission of human rights abuses. President Obama can and must lead this fight."
A global arms trade treaty by itself will not end conflict and violence, but it could slow down the ability of abusive governments and armed groups to commit mayhem and in the process, save lives. Currently, countries irresponsibly trade, sell and exchange small arms and conventional weapons with little consideration of whether they will be used to commit serious human rights abuses – including murder, torture and rape. The devastating impact of unregulated arms sales can be seen every day in Syria, where Russia is arming the al-Assad regime, enabling government forces to kill and torture Syrian civilians.
The treaty would establish common global standards for how countries import, export and transfer conventional arms and small weapons. Most importantly, it would prohibit arms transfers where there is substantial evidence that such weapons would lead to serious human rights violations.
"The Arms Trade Treaty represents a call to conscience to the world – and especially to the United States government –to protect civilians and help develop a system that would prevent weapons from flowing into a situation where we know lives are at risk," said Ringuette. "The U.S. public must not allow its own leaders to ignore the horrific impact of weapons traded into the hands of despots and tyrants. Would we hand a gun to a rapist, murderer or child abuser? Of course we wouldn't. But that is what we allow with arms trading with devastating results."
Amnesty is rallying its activists around the globe – through petitions, digital ads and protests – to enlist the White House's support for the treaty.
A round of treaty talks last July ended when the United States stepped away from the negotiating process. This time around, Amnesty is pushing the Obama administration to signal its support ahead of the 10-day negotiating session that opens March 18 in New York.
At the same time, Amnesty is pushing the NRA to back off and stop its campaign of distortions against the treaty.
"NRA officials are beholden to arms manufacturers who oppose any attempt to restrict weapons sales on the global stage," said Ringuette. "Their false claims that American gun rights will be impacted by this treaty have no factual basis."
For fact sheets and other information about Amnesty's campaign to support the Arms Trade Treaty, please visit:
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Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.