It looks like the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which got nowhere during a month of negotiations at UN headquarters in New York last July, is about to get another chance on the global stage. A resolution is likely to be introduced at the UN General Assembly this month calling for a revival of the negotiations at a treaty conference next March in New York. The difference this time is that the treaty proponents are trying to eliminate the consensus process and allow the treaty to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly. They also aim to beef up the most current draft version of the text.
Treaty supporters want ammunition, parts and components included within the scope section of the treaty. They want more detailed record-keeping and reporting requirements that eliminate exemptions for “national security” and “commercially sensitive” data. And they insist that there be no exemptions for transfers of arms pursuant to existing defense cooperation agreements.
“There is a risk of a diplomatic groundhog day if governments do not change their approach and get this Treaty agreed as a matter of urgency,” said Anna Macdonald, Head of Arms Control for Oxfam, at a press conference held at UN headquarters in New York on October 15th that she conducted with two other treaty supporters.
The Obama administration decided for political reasons not to sign on to the text of the draft treaty produced at the end of the July negotiations, saying that it needed more time to study the issues. Expect that, if re-elected, President Obama will use his “flexibility” to support the treaty in some form during its next go-around. In any event, treaty proponents contend that its core provisions would apply even to non-parties on the theory that its approval by the General Assembly would make it a normative obligation under what is known as “customary international law.”
Inclusion of small arms, ammunition and detailed reporting requirements raise potentially serious Second Amendment issues, irrespective of introductory clauses that indicate an intent not to regulate arms transfers occurring “exclusively” within the territory of a member state or “lawful” ownership for use in “recreational, cultural, historical, and sporting activities.” The back door to achieving global regulation of domestic sales is the provision in the most current treaty text that would require member states to clamp down on “the possible diversion of arms into the illicit market.” The risk of “possible diversion” ala Fast & Furious will become the rationale for regulating guns everywhere.
The treaty also poses a significant risk to our national security. Countries and civil organizations opposed to U.S. foreign policy will seek to put the United States on the spot for arms transfers they allege assist in the violation of international human rights or humanitarian law.
As the Heritage Foundation explained in a report on the treaty:
“In short, the U.S. understanding of what constitutes ‘international humanitarian law’ is not fully shared by many other states, and by endorsing this term, the U.S. may be committing itself to responsibilities that it does not in fact accept but will be pressured to uphold. In other words, an ATT with this provision will become yet another mechanism for accusing the U.S. of being an international law-breaker and urging it to adopt treaties that it has democratically—and wisely—refused to ratify.”
The Arms Trade Treaty as currently drafted is particularly vulnerable to exploitation by Israel’s enemies. Waving numerous resolutions approved by the Islamist dominated UN Human Rights Council accusing Israel of acts of state terrorism, racism and war crimes, the Palestinians and their allies will claim that the United States would be acting contrary to the treaty by continuing to supply Israel with weapons.
In the words of the Heritage Foundation report:
“The treaty will be used to pressure every one of the nations that sells arms, as defined by the ATT, to Israel to end those sales. On this ground alone, the U.S. will certainly be accused of violating the ATT, which will rapidly emerge as a weapon that can be eagerly employed against Israel, over time profoundly impairing Israel’s ability to defend itself.”
The proponents of the treaty would make things even worse if they succeed in removing the exemption for existing defense cooperation agreements that appears in the most current draft of the treaty.
The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty is fundamentally flawed. The countries that supply weapons to the likes of Syrian dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad or other ruthless thugs are not going to be stopped by a piece of paper. All that it will do is tie us down Gulliver style in the vain pursuit of global approval.
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