DPA, October 24, 2006
Fifteen Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including the Dalai Lama, Tuesday urged the UN to begin negotiations on an arms trade treaty that would establish binding law to regulate the lucrative global weapons trade.
The laureates gave support to efforts by Amnesty International (AI), Oxford International and the International Action Network on Small Arms to campaign for the treaty.
Other laureates supporting the treaty included Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Lech Walesa of Poland, Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
A committee of the UN General Assembly was to take action this week on a draft resolution with specifics to begin the negotiations in the coming months, involving discussion by experts on the international trade on weapons.
'It is crunch time at the UN. Governments should take a historic step to stop irresponsible and immoral arms transfers by voting to develop a treaty that will prevent the death, rape and displacement of thousands of people,' said Irene Khan, secretary general of AI, which is among the Nobel laureates that signed the letter.
AI, Oxford and the Network on Small Arms have been urging the more than 110 governments that have signed in on the draft resolution to vote for it this week in the General Assembly committee.
Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya and Britain are among the governments sponsoring the draft, which when adopted would set up a group of experts to discuss the feasibility and scope of an arms trade treaty.
The UN and NGOs said conventional weapons and small arms continue to inflict untold deaths, whether in conflict or in a peaceful society. They said the irresponsible arms trade has fuelled conflict, caused grave human rights violations and hampered development.
The UN had been trying to ban the illicit trade of small weapons, which are preferred by combatants in dozens of conflict around the world and by drug dealers. Small weapons range from a pistol to a machine gun and an AK rifle.
A treaty on arms trade would regulate sale of conventional weapons, from an attack helicopter to small weapons.