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Kerry welcomes US signature of international gun control treaty at U.N.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 4th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It will be the first time the $85 billion international arms trade will be regulated by a global set of standards. The United Nations signed the historic Arms Trade Treaty this week. The treaty regulates all transfers of conventional arms and bans the export of arms if they will be used to commit crimes against humanity. The United States, the world's largest arms exporter, did not sign -- but is expected to by the end of the year.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Negotiations for the treaty took place between 193 countries, 63 of which signed this. More nations are expected to sign by the end of the week.

Some of the world's major arms importers and exporters, seen as crucial for the treaty's success, have abstained or declined to give their signatures. Syria, North Korea and Iran fully oppose the treaty, while Russia, China and India abstained.

According to Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association Technicalities, the language contained in the treaty were the reason for the U.S. not signing. While the U.S. support for the treaty is "strong and genuine," there were inconsistencies in comparison between the English-language and translated versions of the treaty.

"All other countries are looking to what the United States does," Kimball added.

President of Oxfam America Ray Offenheiser says that it is "critical" that the United States sign the treaty, which has been "10 years in the making."

Secretary John Kerry in a statement welcomed the treaty, ensuring that the U.S.'s signing would not infringe on the fiercely debated Second Amendment rights of U.S. citizens.

"We look forward to signing [the treaty] as soon as the process of conforming the official translations is completed satisfactorily," Kerry's statement said.

In addition, the treaty also calls for greater transparency, and hold nations accountable for their weapons trading. States will undergo rigorous assessment before they move arms overseas and have to provide annual reports on international transfers of weapons.

The treaty is viewed as a crucial step towards ending the deaths of the 500,000 people Oxfam estimates perish from armed violence each year.

"The most powerful argument for the [treaty] has always been the call of millions who have suffered armed violence around the world," Anna Macdonald, head of Arms Control, Oxfam, said in a statement. "Their suffering is the reason we have campaigned for more than a decade," she added.

Disagreements were bound to arise. "Items [such as] the scope of weapons covered by the treaty and the strength of human rights provisions preventing arms sales in certain circumstances are not as strong as we would have wished," Jayantha Dhanapala, president of the Pugwash Conferences on Science & World Affairs and former under secretary general for disarmament affairs, said.

Nevertheless, he believes the treaty is a "long overdue step" in realizing Article 26 of the U.N. Charter, which calls for the "establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments."

A version of this story was first published by Inter Press Service news agency.

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