The landmark Arms Trade Treaty regulates the international trade in conventional arms, from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships. Photo: worldislandinfo.com
On April 2, the United Nations General Assembly voted for the first ever Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). This treaty would regulate the multi-billion dollar global arms trade and thus end the lack of regulations of cross-border conventional arms sales. Included in the treaty are binding provisions to prevent armed gender-based violence.
The treaty demands that conventional weapon-exporting states evaluate the risks of arms being used to “commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence or serious acts of violence against women,” (article 7.4) or whether weapons will be used to break humanitarian law, for acts of genocide, war crimes or terrorism. It also requires states to prevent conventional weapons to reach the black market. It is the first treaty that recognizes that there is a connection between arms and gender based violence.
It took seven years to negotiate the treaty, and Iran, North Korea and Syria had blocked its adoption by consensus last minute in March. The treaty’s adoption required agreement by all 193 U.N. member states. British UN ambassador Mark Grant found a way to get around the blockade by asking Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to put it to a swift vote in the General Assembly. There the member-states voted for the treaty by 154 votes to three, with 23 abstentions.
These numbers reflect the growing international sentiment that there must be some kind of a moral standard for weapons trade.
The treaty also establishes an international forum of states that will review published reports of arms sales and publicly name violators.
Before the treaty will come into effect, it needs to be signed and ratified by at least 50 states. There is no specific enforcement mechanism, the hope is that even nations reluctant to ratify the treaty will feel public pressure to abide by the agreement, and that the treaty’s standards will be used immediately as political and moral guidelines.
Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, welcomed the adoption of the treaty, stating that ”The global arms trade must not be a means of aggravating the already catastrophic levels of violence against women around the world, including during conflict and post-conflict. However, UN Women underscores that women are not just of importance to the Arms Trade Treaty as victims of armed violence, but also as peacebuilders and decision-makers. Women’s crucial role in promoting peace and security, recognized in Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and subsequent resolutions, must be recognized in all mechanisms for the monitoring and management of the arms trade.”
A serious threat to all people in Iraq – especially women! Iraqi women’s rights organization ASUDA is very critical of a recently adopted law, that allows all citizens of Iraq to keep a gun in their home.
When Saddam Hussein were in power in Iraq, people were encouraged to carry guns in support of the Ba’ath regime. The gun became a symbol of honour and loyalty. Now, nine years after the fall of the Ba’ath party, the Iraqi government, following the recommendation of the country’s National Security Council, May 6th announced that all citizens from now on can keep a gun at home. The only restriction is that all weapons have to be registered at the nearest police station.
Many women’s organizations in Iraq are deeply concerned about the direction in which the country is heading, and what they see as a clear connection between a militarization of the society, an easy access to small arms and the escalating brutal violence against women.
Holds Prime Minister accountable
One of the organizations, Warvin, has previously reported on the connection between murdered women and guns being kept at home. When hearing about the new law they released a statement condemning it and holding the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki personally responsible for any new cases of women being murdered. ”It is a widely known fact that a government’s first responsibility is providing security and safety for its citizens and fulfill the rule of law in the country. (…) Instead of eradicating and collecting the weapon in Iraq to pave the way to exert the legal authority in the country, as one of the promises he made to people at the time of the election campaign, Maliki has turned his back to the law” the statement said.
Khanim Latif, ASUDA. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.
Campaign against guns
In the Kurdistan region, Iraq, several women’s organizations have joined forces in a campaign with the aim to get a ban on the private possession of small arms. By approving this new law, the government is signalling that issues of women’s security are not of any importance, says Khanim Latif at the women’s organization ASUDA.
- We were expecting a ban on possession of weapons, and for the government to start the process of eradicating and collecting the illegal weapons present in our society. We didn’t expect them to suddenly decide on a legalisation instead. This law represents a serious threat to all people in Iraq – especially women!
Meeting with the Parliament Speaker
ASUDA initiated the campaign, after a period of a drasticly increasing number of women getting killed by privately owned small arms. Naturally they are very concered about this new agenda.
- This law will most probably create instability and lead to a deteriorating security situation in Iraq. And it is likely that there will be an increase in incidents between different ethnic groups, which will lead to even more violence.
But the organizations are not giving up. May 9th they met with the Speaker of the Kurdistan region’s Parliament to discuss it and they will also advocate for the Iraqi government decision not to be carried out in the Kurdistan region.
One of the major questions is of course why Iraq is adopting this new weapon law right now? Ala Riani, coordinator for Iraq at the women and peace organization the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, elaborates:
- One of the suggestions is that by legalizing these weapons the government is legalizing the many militia groups that are active in the country. And most of them are said to be connected to Nouri al-Maliki.