Arms Trade Treaty must regulate ammunition, say religious leaders

(Photo: Reuters / /Andrew Kelly / Control Arms / Handout)Fake tombstones are placed along the East River by members of the Control Arms Coalition to coincide with a diplomatic conference on the future Arms Trade Treaty in New York July 24, 2012. The Control Arms are demonstrating as the negotiations for an Arms Trade Treaty comes to a close on Friday. Picture taken July 24, 2012.

Radical changes such as regulation of ammunition are still needed in the latest draft of the Arms Trade Treaty under negotiation at the United Nations if it is to save lives, says Control Arms, a civil society organization.

Voices representing 90 percent of Christians  joined the criticism of the latest developments at the Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty currently underway in New York.

Jonathan Frerichs, the World Council of Churches' program executive for peace building and disarmament, said, "Without bullets, the guns fall silent, yet still the transfer of ammunition is not fully-covered in the text."

"When you have drones, hand grenades, armored vehicles and even military transport aircraft not covered in a treaty meant to regulate the arms trade, you know something is not right.

"It defies belief and means this treaty would not change the situation on the ground but instead maintain the status quo," he noted.

The churches released a statement supporting the Conrtol Arms coalition stance.

Its signatories include: Rev. Walter Altmann, moderator of the World Council of Churches; Rev. Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general, World Evangelical Alliance; Marie Dennis, co-president, Pax Christi International and Ambassador (ret.) Didier Destremau, disarmament spokesperson, Caritas.

The Control Arms coalition said the latest text, issued on 22 March, falls short of what the majority of member states demanded and reflects too much the more lax positions of the major exporters.

The WCC-led Ecumenical Campaign for a Strong and Effective Arms Trade Treaty is part of a broader civil society coalition.

Control Arms says that, in a bid to get consensus at whatever price, the president of the conference, Australian Ambassador Peter Woolcott, has failed to listen to calls for a stronger treaty made by scores of states.

While campaigners want to see every member state support a future treaty, they argue that unanimity would come at too high a price if the final text still has several glaring loopholes, said Frerichs.

Under the current draft, ammunition is still poorly regulated, and there is still far too high a threshold for exporters to use when assessing whether to go ahead with an arms transfer or not.

Oxfam's head of arms control Anna Macdonald said: "The chair of the conference has a stark choice to make. He can side with a handful of countries watering down the text or with the majority representing countless people suffering each day from the unregulated arms trade.

"The new text is not good enough and fails to reflect the demands of the majority of the member States.

"Nearly 120 States called on Woolcott to deliver a robust treaty at the start of the conference, declaring that a weak treaty was worse than no treaty."

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