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Jack Straw’s ‘major move’ on arms control

October 1, 2004

Campaigners herald Jack Straw’s ‘major move’ on arms control

Campaigners for tough controls on the international arms trade welcomed yesterday’s announcement from UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw that the UK supports an international treaty to control the deadly trade in arms that takes thousands of lives every year.

Amnesty International, Oxfam and IANSA (International Action Network on Small Arms) launched the global Control Arms campaign almost exactly one year ago. It calls for a legally-binding, international Arms Trade Treaty to help stop weapons being sold to human rights abusers, criminals and conflict zones. There are currently almost no legally binding international arms export controls in existence.

Today's announcement signals a huge success for the campaign, which to date has gathered support from hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. The political leaders of countries such as Brazil, Cambodia, Mali, Macedonia, Costa Rica, Finland and the Netherlands have already indicated potential support for an international Arms Trade Treaty.

Barry Coates, Oxfam NZ Executive Director, said: "Jack Straw's support brings tough international arms controls much closer. People we work with whose lives have been ruined by the unregulated trade in weapons will at last be able to see light at the end of the tunnel. The UK, the second largest exporter of weapons, can play a vital role in keeping weapons out of the wrong hands and making people safe from armed violence. We must now look to the New Zealand government to throw their support behind the treaty and help make it a reality."

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said: "Straw's support for an Arms Trade Treaty is a huge boost for the Control Arms campaign. We will not stop until all countries see sense – that there is a desperate need for a legally-binding treaty that stops weapons being sold to people who persecute, torture and massacre."

Rebecca Peters, IANSA Network Director said: "This progress is fantastic news for people who live in fear of armed violence across the world. After decades of an explosion in arms proliferation, governments are beginning to listen to their citizens’ demands for change."

Background: Conventional arms kill hundreds of thousands of people every year. There are 639 million small arms in the world, or one for every ten people, produced by over 1,000 companies in at least 98 countries. Amnesty International, Oxfam and IANSA are calling for an International Arms Trade Treaty to introduce legally-binding standards to control the supply of weapons around the globe.

The campaign aims to ensure that arms are not sold, by any country, to places where they are likely to fuel conflict and instability or be used to commit human rights abuses. Oxfam has repeatedly called on the New Zealand government, particularly the Minister for Disarmament Marion Hobbs, to support an International Arms Trade Treaty. Visit our web site: www.controlarms.org/

ENDS

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