By Alaphia Zoyab, Online Communities Officer at Amnesty International.
UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran
At a meeting with NGOs on the side-lines of the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) negotiations in New York, China made the claim that it does not transfer arms to conflict states in Africa. That claim is simply not true and China has clearly forgotten about the notorious ‘Ship of Shame’. We are happy to remind them.
In 2008 a Chinese ship MV An Yue Jiang arrived in Durban in South Africa with a deadly cargo of more than 3000 cases of arms. The cases included nearly 3 million rounds of rifle ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades, mortar bombs and mortar launchers, all exported by Poly Technologies Inc. of Beijing. This cargo was destined for the Zimbabwean Defence Force.
By Alaphia Zoyab, an Online Communications Officer from Amnesty’s International Secretariat.
All governments say they want to stop the flow of illicit arms, but listening to many of them at the UN today, it became clear that not many are willing to do anything about it.
This is because it will involve much greater transparency on how they report on arms transfers and this immediately makes governments uncomfortable.
Amnesty International’s findings show that the biggest source of illegal arms is through diversions from legal stockpiles and authorised trade. However, because current reporting by governments on imports, exports and arms transfers is so poor, it is near impossible to establish where and how deadly weapons are getting diverted.
This week, delegates from UN Member States are gathering in New York for the next round of negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).
The treaty talks aim to establish the highest possible common standards for the export, import, and transfer of conventional weapons. If the negotiations prove successful, the treaty may have huge positive implications for human rights and human security around the world.
Currently, the multi-billion dollar global arms trade is often irresponsible, or even unregulated, resulting in weapons often reaching the hands of those who use them to commit serious abuses of human rights. From the Sudan to the DRC to Myanmar, Amnesty International has documented how arms transfers have directly fueled serious abuses of human rights.
Cartridge casing from a bullet, for a Kalashnikov-type assault rifle, found at Conakry stadium. Copyright Amnesty International
There is no question that the September 28th, 2009, Bloody Monday massacre in Guinea was an unprecedented episode of violence and brutality by Guinea’s security forces. But let’s not forget that this was not the first time that Guinea’s military and security forces have used excessive force and acted with impunity in the past decade. In fact, the behavior of the security forces has been defined by a clear pattern of unlawful killings, extrajudicial executions, rape, arbitrary detentions, torture and grossly excessive use of force.
You did not want the military, so now we are going to teach you a lesson – member of the security forces present during the 28 September 2009 violence
Yet, as Amnesty’s new report demonstrates, a number of governments and companies have continued to finance, train and supply Guinea’s security forces, ignoring the numerous human rights violations they have committed over the years. In fact, several of the military and security units whose members were directly involved in the commission of human rights violations during Bloody Monday and in previous years had received training from states including France, China and the US. Weapons and security equipment supplied from South Africa, France and elsewhere provided the tools for the crimes perpetrated on Bloody Monday.
The decision by several states to suspend military cooperation with Guinea, including the US after the December 2008 coup and France after the September 2009 massacre, was too late. While such suspensions will certainly help minimize the capacity of the security forces to commit human rights abuses in the future, the signs were there long before December 2008 and military cooperation should have been suspended much earlier.
What the case of Guinea shows is the need for all states to adopt international standards to assess arms transfers on a case-by-case basis. This would ensure that states adequately assess the risk of exporting arms and training to countries such as Guinea and that such transfers do not facilitate serious human rights violations.
Action for Human Rights. Hope for Humanity.