By Paul Gallant, Sherry Gallant, Alan J. Chwick & Joanne D. Eisen.
Manasquan, NJ --(Ammoland.com)- Two factors, little-discussed in public by both proponents and opponents of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), are  how the Treaty —if enacted— would be enforced, and  how sanctions against those States that are non-compliant with the terms of such a Treaty would be imposed.
The month of July 2012, at the UN in New York City, began auspiciously, with high expectations and hopes, and ended with one “success” (if you could call it that) for the weapon-prohibitionists: a document that gave some framework to the long sought-after prize: a legally-binding global Arms Trade Treaty.
Since this draft document was never approved by all the States, there is no Treaty upon which to be voted, at present.
Yet it was a success that few ATT proponents were happy with. They had expected to come away with a strongly worded, ironclad Arms Trade Treaty from which to build upon, and to be able to eventually strengthen its provisions.
However, about the only thing the Treaty’s proponents unanimously agreed upon was the need for additional talks to finish what they had started. By all accounts, further talks would probably resume in the next few months.
Despite all the lofty, flowery rhetoric about what the goals of such a Treaty were, and what they would accomplish, the words contained in the draft document were plentiful, but the specifics about implementation of such a Treaty, and how it would be enforced, were noticeably absent.
In the entire 11-page draft document, the only mention of how such an ATT would be implemented was the single sentence in Article 11, stating the following:
“Each State Party shall adopt appropriate national measures and policies as may be necessary to enforce national laws and regulations and implement the provisions of this Treaty.”
And the only inkling of enforcement was the single mention of the term “embargo” in the final draft:
A State Party shall not authorize any transfer of conventional arms if the transfer would violate its obligations under measures adopted by the United Nations Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, in particular arms embargoes.
Is it perhaps the strategy of the weapon-prohibitionists to have States first sign onto the Treaty, and once that has occurred, fill in all the blanks about implementation and enforcement? As it stands now, the only means of “preventing” the illicit trade in arms seems to be through the use of unenforced UN Security Council arms embargoes.
The most prominent international weapon-prohibitionist lobby is ControlArms, ( http://tiny.cc/8noilw ) which describes itself as “[A] global civil society alliance campaigning for a ‘bulletproof’ Arms Trade Treaty that will protect lives and livelihoods. A ‘bulletproof’ Arms Trade Treaty means an international legally-binding agreement that will stop transfers of arms and ammunitions that fuel conflict, poverty and serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”
In a stunning admission made in a 2006 Briefing Note entitled “UN Arms Embargoes: An Overview of the Last Ten Years,” ControlArms acknowledged ( http://tiny.cc/2qoilw ) that “[E]very one of the 13 United Nations arms embargoes imposed in the last decade has been systematically violated, [and] only a handful of the many arms embargo breakers named in UN sanctions reports has been successfully prosecuted.”
The fact of the matter is that if UNSC embargoes worked in practice, there would be no need for an ATT, as it is would amount to nothing more than another layer of arms embargoes.
The process of enacting sanctions —such as embargoes— is the function of the UN Security Council. To understand how embargoes fit into the scheme of an ATT, one needs to understand something about the workings of the UN’s Security Council.
“The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) ( http://tiny.cc/jtoilw ) is…charged with maintaining peace and security among nations…and has the power to make decisions which member governments must carry out under the United Nations Charter.”
There are five permanent members of the Security Council: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China. Any one of the Council’s permanent members can nullify an arms embargo because these States hold veto power against any UNSC resolution.
Under current international law, Chapter VII of the UN Charter obligates the Security Council to deal with “Threats to The Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression.” Specifically, one of the mandates of the UN’s Security Council Sanctions Committee is to:
‘take enforcement measures to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such measures range from economic and/or other sanctions not involving the use of armed force to international military action. The use of mandatory sanctions is intended to apply pressure on a State or entity to comply with the objectives set by the Security Council without resorting to the use of force….The range of sanctions has included comprehensive economic and trade sanctions and/or more targeted measures such as arms embargoes, travel bans, financial or diplomatic restrictions.’
We can learn something about how easily States can get around UNSC-sanctioned arms embargoes, and even about the complicity of the UN itself, by studying the case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
In 2003, the UNSC imposed an arms embargo on numerous provinces of the DRC, and “sternly condemned the continuing violations of human rights and human rights law….” This meant that no arms were allowed to enter the embargoed provinces. However, Amnesty International noted that “Since 2003, no state has reported to the UN an authorized export of arms to the DRC, yet there is no shortage of arms and ammunition arriving in the DRC.”
Small Arms Survey 2006 (P. 282, not online in English) noted that the borders between Sudan, Uganda, and the DRC “are porous and allow unchecked small arms proliferation,” which means that arms can flow easily between these three States. Yet, all three States had mandatory UN arms embargoes placed on them at the time, as did Rwanda. In violation of a UN arms embargo against it enacted in May 1994, the government of Rwanda, itself, nevertheless authorized arms shipments into the DRC.
South Africa got into the act by turning a blind eye to the UN arms embargo placed on Rwanda, shipping weapons to that State, which in turn diverted them to the DRC. Added to the equation was the fact that the Congolese army was involved in smuggling weapons to groups in Rwanda, in exchange for valuable minerals, including gold.
With massive violations of UN arms embargoes, one might well wonder what the UN had done in response. The answer is nothing of consequence. According to the Institute for Security Studies, “[T]he Security Council has been loath to take punitive action against those member states that have been consistently implicated in embargo-busting activities in reports by panels of experts.”
This should be no surprise in view of the UN’s own participation in arms smuggling in violation of its own embargoes. BBC reporter Martin Plaut uncovered evidence that an internal UN report provided details of a smuggling network involving Pakistani UN peacekeepers and the DRC militia groups they were charged with disarming.
So, how will things change with the enactment of an Arms Trade Treaty? A doomed-to-fail embargo by any other name is still a failed embargo.
As Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Organization, Ted R. Bromund, noted:
[I]t is a fantasy to believe that a universal ATT, backed by nothing more than the words of the treaty itself, will succeed where the Security Council, backed by the authority of Chapter 7 [of the U.N. charter], has failed…. It is member states that, by design or negligence, arm terrorists and violate existing embargoes. What is needed is not a new treaty on the arms trade. It is nations that are willing and able to uphold the commitments they have already made.
About the authors:
Dr. Paul Gallant and Dr. Joanne D. Eisen practice optometry and dentistry, respectively, on Long Island, NY, and have collaborated on firearm politics for the past 20 years. They have also collaborated with David B. Kopel since 2000, and are Senior Fellows at the Independence Institute, where Kopel is Research Director. Most recently, Gallant and Eisen have also written with Alan J. Chwick. Sherry Gallant has been instrumental in the editing of virtually all of the authors’ writings, and is immensely knowledgeable in the area of firearm politics.
Almost all of the co-authored writings of Gallant, Eisen, Kopel and Chwick can be found athttp://gallanteisen.incnf.