UN: New Treaty on Weapons Trade Slammed

Organizations fighting to curb illegal weapons are criticizing the draft of a new UN treaty on regulation of global arms trade which they say is filled with loopholes that will insure continuation of the current illegal weapons trade situation. 

"The feeble treaty language means business as usual for traffickers who are filling the arsenals of the world's worst human rights abusers," said Kathi Lynn Austin, founder and executive director of a non-government organization, the Conflict Awareness Project (CAP).

The weapons trade fuels more than armed conflicts around the globe. Among its top customers are also drug cartels and other organized crime groups. The trial of the convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout shed light on this side of global weapons trade.

In a sting operation, Bout agreed to sell large quantities of weaponry to undercover agents posing as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). FARC, considered a terrorist organization in the US, derives most of its funding from drug production and trade, and kidnappings. According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), “Organized crime groups operating in Colombia control the worldwide supply of cocaine.”

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimated that drug-related violence in 2010 alone took between 99,000 and 253,000 lives. Mexico has one of the highest drug-related deaths in the world, with close to 50,000 lives lost in the past five years.

A key point of disagreement in the UN treaty draft presented Tuesday is whether governments should be required to consider human rights issues before permitting weapons exports to a country. Peter Herby, head of the International Committee for the Red Cross arms unit, believes that the provisions in the treaty reagrding humanitarian law would have little effect in practice.

"Rather than producing the highest possible international standards for the transfer of all conventional weapons, it would allow many countries to simply continue doing what they're doing," he said.

The UN is expected to reach a consensus on the treaty Friday. A unanimous vote by all countries is needed to adopt the treaty.