Charities unite to end gun trade

A worldwide campaign for an international law to curb the global arms trade is to be launched jointly by Oxfam, Amnesty International and the International Action Network on Small Arms.

The Control Arms Campaign will be launched simultaneously in London and dozens of other countries on 9 October. According to Oxfam, the initiative will call on governments to sign up to a new international arms trade treaty to "stop the flow of guns fuelling poverty and suffering in the poorest countries in the world".

Details of the campaign have not yet been released, but it is likely to include a number of proposals put forward by Amnesty International, which has been rallying support for a drive against arms dealing for at least six years.

The proposals, taken from a report in 1997, were designed to stem the proliferation of light weapons. They include transparency of countries' policies; establishing an embargo against countries that violate human rights; empowering customs officials to monitor cargos in transit, and buying back guns.

The report concluded: "Like many NGOs, we are worried that some proposals to establish better control systems may not be adequate to protect human rights and we would like to collaborate with other NGOs and sympathetic governments to see how the proposals could be made more rigorous."

Oxfam has accused the Government of failing to honour its manifesto commitment to end the activities of arms brokers "wherever they are located".

While the new Export Control Act gives the Government greater powers to control UK arms dealing, it cannot contain those who trade from abroad, and exempts Britons involved in transporting weapons to non-embargoed war zones.

Since the Act became law last year, Oxfam has asked supporters to write to the Government, urging it to close these loopholes. In January, campaigners from Oxfam and Amnesty International dumped 1,000 life-size cardboard AK47s outside the Leicester constituency office of Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt to highlight the Act's shortcomings.

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