The recent repression in the Middle East and North Africa demonstrates that a wide range of arms used by military, security and police forces, must be covered under the scope of an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), Amnesty International said.
The latest draft of the terms of a global Arms Trade Treaty, due for completion in 2012, has emerged from talks between UN member states in New York.
Amnesty International warns that if certain types of security and police equipment such as non-military firearms, riot guns, crowd control vehicles, shotgun ammunition and tear gas are not clearly covered by the Treaty, many governments will not prevent such arms being supplied and used for serious violations of human rights.
The international community has widely recognised that conventional weapons, munitions and armaments are often used for internal repression as well as armed conflict, most recently by imposing arms embargoes against certain governments in the Middle East.
Amnesty International identified US-made tear gas canisters and solid rubber bullets, and French tear gas grenades and solid rubber ‘dispersion’ grenades in the aftermath of the violent clearing of Bahrain’s Pearl Roundabout this year.
In Egypt, the extensive use of a lethal type of shotgun ammunition by security forces resulted in many fatalities.
Armed security forces have also used non-military armoured and specialised security vehicles in the brutal crackdowns. In Libya, UK-made vehicles were used by security forces, and in Egypt security forces drove into protestors using armoured vehicles.
The main arms suppliers to Bahrain, Egypt and Libya have been Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Slovakia, the UK and USA.
The recent events in Bahrain, Libya, Egypt and elsewhere have shown how a wide range of conventional military and security equipment can be persistently misused for unlawful force often with lethal consequences.
There are currently no comprehensive or binding international rules governing the international trade in conventional weapons. Gaps and loopholes in national controls allow weapons and armaments to end up in the hands of serious human rights abusers.