For many of us, Indonesia may seem to be a country recovered. We may recall the conflicts in Aceh, Papua and Timor-Leste in the late 1990s, or even the violence that ravaged the country in 1965. We may think of it as a country split asunder into more peaceful parts, a region struck by a tsunami that showed its strength to recover, or the former temporary residence of President Barack Obama.
For many of us, Indonesia is a country on the other side of the planet, whose human rights challenges perhaps don’t make us sit up and take notice compared to the acute and current crises we hear flit through our TV news.
It is debatable whether the term human rights has been heard more the 5 times in the course of the 2012 elections. When it has been uttered, the candidates who said it quickly moved on to other issues or submerged it in a list of foreign policy crises. One is left to wonder if human rights are still a priority, let alone a pillar of U.S. foreign or domestic policy.
The 2012 elections are taking place against the backdrop of unprecedented turmoil and challenges to the respect and promotion of human rights and arguably a vacuum of leadership in support of those principles domestically and internationally.
One need only look at the headlines in the news to see examples of where the human rights analysis is missing.
On the final day of the July 2012 Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) Conference, at a moment when the 190 assembled delegations thought an agreement was at hand, the US, joined by Russia and China, announced they did not have enough time to resolve problems they saw in the text.
This announcement, followed by intensified lobbying by the National Rifle Association, has delayed progress towards regulating the flow of arms around the world. The National Rifle Association is now crowing about their victory in heading off the treaty. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Amadou Maiga from Mali, who has lost friends in conflict, spoke in front of a mock graveyard across from the United Nations which represents those killed by arms everyday around the world. (Control Arms Coalition/Andrew Kelly)
After 10 years of campaigning and three weeks of final negotiations, yesterday afternoon saw the belated delivery of a draft text for the Arms Trade Treaty. Governments are now in the midst of intense negotiations as they look to reach an agreement by Friday.
The draft includes a requirement that each government assess whether there is a substantial risk that an international arms transfer would be used for serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law, which is the “Golden Rule” we’ve long campaigned for. It would also ban transfers for the purpose of facilitating genocide or crimes against humanity.
In short, a strong Arms Trade Treaty will make it much harder to send arms to places like Syriawhere they will be used to harm civilians and violate their human rights.
Right now, weapons have weaker trade regulations than bananas.
Many governments and most U.S. allies agree with human rights groups that the Arms Trade Treaty should not permit weapons exports where there is a substantial risk of serious human rights violations or war crimes, like those being committed in Syria. However some influential states, including the United States, Russia and China, are trying to promote weaker treaty rules.
The United States should seek better company.
On Thursday, July 12, U.S. negotiators asserted that even a substantial risk of mass atrocities should not necessarily prevent states from proceeding with arms exports. Just hours later, the news broke about yet another atrocity in Syria—reports describe the Syrian army’s attack on the village of Tremseh with helicopter gunships and tanks.
The unfortunate timing of the Syrian tragedy and the U.S. delegation’s back tracking at the United Nations highlight the deadly consequences of the absence of any clear international constraints on the flow of conventional weapons.
This is a fallacy, driven at best by misinformation and at worst by a deliberate effort to undermine the treaty. Given the incredibly lucrative arms trade estimated to exceed $60 billion annually (with the US exporting 34% of all weapons) it’s not a surprise that such a misinformation campaign has taken the Internet by storm.
Earlier this week, world leaders officially opened the negotiations at the UN to forge an historic global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to regulate the international arms trade.
The negotiations cap a 10-year effort led by organizations, including Amnesty International, and a small group of progressive governments that have been fighting for the treaty despite skepticism of those countries involved with the incredibly lucrative arms trade estimated to exceed $60 billion annually.
The outright opposition from the largest producer of small arms, the United States, has been a critical point of contention is moving the Treaty forward. The administration of G.W. Bush rejected the idea of regulating arms, in effect removing the US’ 34% share of global arms market from inclusion in any global deal.
This week, Amnesty International activists went bananas in New York City’s Times Square to tell New Yorkers why the upcoming Arms Trade Treaty talks at the UN are so important to protecting human rights.
Three giant digital billboards lit up in Amnesty yellow, and thousands of New Yorkers watched our ClickBoom video on the big screens. And we handed out a healthy, organic banana to passerby — a fair trade snack accompanied by Amnesty’s “Bananafesto” that highlights the insane fact that there are stricter regulations on bananas than there are on guns and bullets worldwide.
Check out our new video from the event, featuring a clip from none other than Russell Brand:
It’s easier to trade weapons around the world than it is to trade bananas.
No, you didn’t just read that wrong. It’s really easier to trade guns and bullets than bananas.
This fact, as absurd as it is, shows how easy it is for brutal dictators and armed groups to buy weapons and use them against civilians. This weapons free-for-all policy is so bad that every minute, someone dies from armed violence.
World leaders are meeting to negotiate the first ever arms trade treaty in July. We’ve got just one shot to get it right, so please join us to demand a strong arms trade treaty (without loopholes!) that protects human rights.
A bulletproof arms trade treaty would establish strict rules for the international transfer of arms, and hold irresponsible arms suppliers and dealers to account.
A child soldier in Liberia. (Photo Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images)
Growing up in central Texas, I had a lot of friends who were responsible gun owners. Many would hunt deer or sport shoot. Some even carried a gun for self-protection. It was part of the culture. But there was always a heavy emphasis on the “responsible” component of bearing arms.
My gun-owning neighbors in Texas may have embraced the unofficial motto of the National Rifle Association – guns don’t kill people; people kill people – but they would never in a million years have put a loaded weapon in the hands of someone who they knew was likely to use that gun to kill or maim.
So as we watch in horror the slaughter of innocent men, women, and children in Syria, or stare aghast at our computer screens at images of brutal violence and child soldiers in remote regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, what are we to call those countries and international arms brokers who irresponsibly sell guns to thugs intent on violence? Profiteers? Bad actors?