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Oxfam: Bullet trade out of control

Oxfam: Bullet trade out of control, fuelling conflict and human rights abuses

The parliamentary lawn is covered in symbolic red crosses – Scoop Image


On the day a petition of over 12,000 New Zealanders calling for an International Arms Trade Treaty is presented to Disarmament Minister Phil Goff, a new report on global bullet trade shows new ammunition supplies are widely available on the black market

Up to 14 billion bullets are manufactured globally every year and there is no reliable data on how billions of those bullets are used or to whom they may be sold, according to a new report on the global ammunition trade released today by aid agency, Oxfam International.

The report, 'Ammunition: the fuel of conflict' shows that several big ammunition producers including China, Egypt, Iran, Brazil, Bulgaria, Romania and Israel provide no data at all on their ammunition exports, apart from shotgun cartridges.

Every year, lax controls mean millions of bullets end up in war zones and fall into the hands of human rights abusers. The report details how illicit ammunition has flooded into conflict-ridden countries including Somalia, Sierra Leone and Liberia in the last five years.

At least 76 countries manufacture ammunition, and the number is increasing as more countries acquire bullet-making equipment. Kenya and Turkey have both become producers in the last ten years. Globally, 33 million bullets are produced every day.

"Our research shows that new ammunition is widely available on Baghdad's black market. There are two likely explanations for this: either it was smuggled in from neighbouring countries or it has leaked from coalition or Iraqi forces' supplies. In either case, weak controls mean lives lost on the streets of Baghdad," said Barbara Stocking, Director of Oxfam.

The report includes research conducted in May 2006 into the Baghdad black market. Researchers found:
New, high-quality ammunition is widely available in Baghdad, in contrast to the early days of the conflict when ammunition is believed to have largely come from old Iraqi stockpiles.
Bullets manufactured between 1999 and 2004 in factories in Czech Republic, Serbia, Romania and Russia were found on sale in Baghdad.
New ammunition stocks are either being smuggled into Iraq from neighbouring countries or leaking from the vast supplies imported by coalition forces to equip the new Iraqi security forces. It is likely both are happening.
The average cost of an AK-47 bullet on the black market is US $30 cents. As most gun violence victims are killed by between four and 12 bullets, on average the price of taking away a human life in Baghdad is currently US $2.40.

The report also contains information on the vast stockpiles of old ammunition in Eastern Europe, finding that:
Ukraine alone is estimated to have about 2.5 million tonnes of ammunition stocks including several hundred million rounds of small arms ammunition.
Unscrupulous brokers, who buy these bullets and sell them to conflict zones, are making huge profits. In one case, a broker's profit margin was over 500 per cent.
Bullets last at least 20 years, more if properly stored.

Ammunition plays a vital role in fuelling armed conflict, according to the report. In the Central African Republic, fighters have been known to throw away weapons because they could not buy the right bullets for them.
However, bullets are frequently left out of arms regulations.

"If you're not convinced about the devastating power a shipment of ammunition can have, think of Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, during the civil war in 2003. In late June 2003, forces ran out of bullets and had to retreat. But once a new shipment arrived, they attacked again, ferociously, killing many innocent people. At the UN world conference on the small arms trade, governments must agree new global principles to govern both the small arms and the ammunition trade," added Stocking.

The UN conference on the small arms trade begins in New York on 26 June 2006. A New Zealand delegation will be there.

Bullet casings are often left at the scene of crimes and massacres. The report argues that if casings were properly marked, it would greatly increase the likelihood of bringing human rights abusers and criminals to justice. However, currently markings only enable the manufacturer to be identified/.ENDS

For interview requests/information please contact:
Prue Smith
Oxfam New Zealand
+64 9 355 6858 or +64 21 1400825

Clare Rudebeck
Oxfam GB
+44 (0) 1865 47 2530 or +44 (0) 7769 887 139.

Editors Notes
The Facts
Small arms are the current weapons of mass destruction being used in the world.
Lack of control on the arms trade is fuelling conflict, poverty and human rights abuses worldwide. Every government is responsible.
By 2020, the number of deaths and injuries from war and violence will overtake the number of deaths caused by killer diseases such as malaria and measles.
From 1998 to 2001, the USA, UK and France earned more income from arms sales to developing countries than they gave in aid
An estimated 300,000 children are working as soldiers in conflicts around the world.
'Leaked' firearms are the most common instruments of gun crime and violence in the Pacific.
"A gun is as easy to get as a packet of cigarettes." Evan Jean Lollas, 34, serving life for murder in the USA, 1997

Control Arms Campaign
Amnesty, Oxfam and IANSA believe that an Arms Trade Treaty - a treaty based on over-arching international laws - would go some way to restricting the sale of weapons to states and factions with a track record of human rights abuses. Our international campaign is coming to a close and New Zealand has featured heavily throughout. The New Zealand government was one of the first to publicly support an Arms Trade Treaty - and over 12,000 New Zealanders have joined the international photo petition urging other governments to adopt an ATT at the upcoming UN Review Committee on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms.

Ced Simpson (Executive Director of Amnesty) will present the petition to the Minister for Disarmament Phil Goff on Thursday 25 June at 1pm, in front of 1000 red crosses on Parliament lawn, representing the number of people killed each day by small arms around the world.
For more information please go to www.controlarms.org

Over 1 million people have signed the Control Arms Million Faces petition made up of photos and self portraits from around the world calling on decision makers to implement an International Arms Trade Treaty to control the arms trade which are fuelling conflict, poverty and human rights abuses worldwide.

On June 26 a New Zealand delegation will join other nations at a UN Summit in New York to discuss the treaty. The Million Faces petition will send a powerful, global message to the world's governments at this time.


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