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UN arms sales treaty urged by Nobel Peace Prize laureates

[JURIST] Fifteen Nobel Peace Prize laureates sent a letter [text] to United Nations [official website] member states Tuesday urging the UN General Assembly to explore an arms-trade treaty. The letter signers said they believe it "imperative for humanity that the number of deaths caused by firearms be reduced." They recommended passage of an international arms sales resolution that would create a panel to study the issue and report its finding to the UN in 2008.

The laureates, including the Dalai Lama, Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei, Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu, and former Polish president Lech Walesa, said that an arms trade treaty should minimally provide as follows:

  • All international arms transfers should be authorized by a recognized State and carried out in accordance with national laws and procedures that reflect, at the very least, the obligations incumbent on States under international law.
  • No State should authorize international arms transfers that violate the specific obligations incumbent upon it under international law with regard to arms.
  • No State should authorize international arms transfers if they are, or may be, used to violate international law.
  • States must take account of factors such as the probable use to which arms will be put before authorizing transfers.
  • States should submit annual national reports on arms transfers to an international registry.
  • States should agree common standards for setting up specific control mechanisms.
The draft General Assembly resolution is co-sponsored by Argentina, Australia, Britain, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan and Kenya. Most UN member states, including three of the six largest arms exporters, are expected to vote in favor of the resolution. It appears likely that other large exporters, including the US, Russia and China, will oppose it. The resolution is due for a vote Wednesday in the General Assembly's First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) [official website]. AFP has more.

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