Profits from arms deals tend to trump human rights. The United Nations Security Council, whose five veto-wielding permanent members count among the world’s biggest arms dealers, is falling down on its job. Hypocrisy is rampant as governments pay lip service to human rights.
So says Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organization, in its latest annual report, published this week. It deplores an “endemic failure of leadership” and says 2011 – the year of the Arab Spring – had made clear that “opportunistic alliances and financial interests have trumped human rights as global powers jockey for influence…”
That reference covers Russia, chief armorer of the government of Bashar al-Assad, as well as the United States, which recently resumed arms shipments to the royal rulers of tiny Bahrain, whose crackdown on dissidents has been brutal, though not nearly on the same scale as the campaign to wipe out the opposition in Syria. The death toll there now stands at around 10,000.
To hear Amnesty Secretary General Salil Shetty tell it, the leaders who have so far failed to match human rights rhetoric with arms export deed have a chance to redeem themselves at a United Nations conference next July to work out a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), an idea first put forward in 2003 by a group of Nobel laureates who argued that existing arms control regulations are full of loopholes.
Campaigning for an arms treaty has gathered momentum over the past few years and in a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama timed to coincide with the Amnesty International report, representatives of 51 non-governmental organizations described the July conference as an historic opportunity to prevent weapons from ending up in the hands of human rights violators. “We urge you and your administration to play a strong leadership role,” the letter said.