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Amnesty petitions White House over UN arms treaty

WASHINGTON, July 25 – Amnesty International urged President Barack Obama’s administration on Wednesday to close loopholes in a proposed UN conventional arms treaty that is vehemently opposed by the US gun lobby.

It sent a 60,000-name petition from its US supporters to the White House by email, urging the United States “to support the highest possible human rights standards within a new Arms Trade Treaty.”

“The global trade in bananas is more tightly regulated than the trade in conventional arms,” said Frank Jannuzi, head of Amnesty’s Washington office, during a small noon-hour protest outside the White House.

“We think that’s nuts — or bananas,” he told AFP, cradling a thick hard-copy version of the petition which, he said, the White House declined to send out a staffer to collect.

Diplomats at UN headquarters in New York are under a Friday deadline to finalize the text of an Arms Trade Treaty that would regulate the $70 billion trade in small arms.

Disagreements have split the main arms-producing nations — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, Germany and France — on the scope of the treaty and even the criteria for how to judge an arms transfer.

Within the United States, the treaty is bitterly opposed by the influential National Rifle Association (NRA), which fears it will infringe upon the constitutional right of all Americans “to keep and bear arms.”

Gun control is a hot-button issue in US domestic politics, with debate reignited by Friday’s killing of 12 movie-goers by a lone gunman toting a military-style assault rifle at a midnight Batman premiere in Colorado.

NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre said earlier this month that 58 senators — the majority of the Senate — have pledged to oppose ratification of the Arms Trade treaty if it covers civilian weapons.

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Amnesty says the treaty must cover all arms transfers — not only sales, but also shipments of free weapons between nations. It also wants transfers of ammunition to be licensed and reported in the same manner as weapons.

“If the loopholes aren’t closed, it will be a Pyrrhic victory,” Jannuzi said.

Earlier this week, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) broke with its traditional policy of neutrality to criticize what it called “major loopholes” in the first draft of the treaty.


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