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  • Reaction to the Latest Draft of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty

    In early July, I spent two weeks at the U.N. conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The conference ends on July 27, and I’m back for this final week. The president of the U.N. conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) has just released a draft treaty text. Here is a quick reaction to it.

    Majority rule. The first and overriding problem is that Article 20, paragraph 3, states that “amendments to this Treaty shall be adopted by consensus, or if consensus is not achieved, by two-thirds of the States Parties present” at a conference of signatories. This would make the U.S., if it were to sign, subject to a two-thirds majority rule on matters of fundamental national security and constitutional liberties. It is completely unacceptable.

    Possible inclusion of domestic “transfers.” While in Article 2, Section B, paragraph 1, the ATT nominally applies only to international transfers, it does not actually define transfer or what constitutes an “international transfer.” Since the draft includes small arms and light weapons, covers “illicit trafficking,” and requires signatories to respect international agreements to which it is party (presumably including the U.N. Firearms Protocol, where applicable), it could still be held to apply to domestic transfers.

    Implication of end-user requirements. Articles 6, 7, 8, and 11 relate to end-user verification, “unauthorized end-users,” and reporting requirements, If the item being exported is a main battle tank, it makes sense to require end-user verification, because battle tanks are not normally sold to individuals. But if the item is a hunting rifle, a demand for end-user verification becomes a demand for the identity of the individual buyer. The fact that the draft (Article 6, paragraph 5) requires states to cooperate to “prevent diversions to…unauthorized end-users” makes this problem even worse. In short, the draft continues to imply that signatories should create a national firearms registry and report that information to the ATT’s support unit.

    Vague on its coverage of ammunition. The draft’s treatment of ammunition appears to be deliberately confusing. It is not formally in the treaty’s scope, but it is included as part of mandatory national control systems and then excluded as part of the treaty’s covered activities and reporting requirements. The point of this appears to be to allow advocates of ammunition inclusion to say that it is included and opponents of it to say that it is out.

    International legal issues. The treaty criteria still contain, as appears to be unavoidable, mentions of international human rights and international humanitarian law that pose serious risks to the U.S. transfer system and U.S. firms via the application of internationally, or transnationally, defined standards that the U.S. has not accepted. This problem is more serious because Article 4, paragraph 5, of the draft states that the exporting state “shall not authorize” transfers that violate these standards. The fact that this assessment is nationally based does not limit this risk.

    Will not constrain bad actors. If you think the ATT will do anything to control actual abuses of human rights—the treaty is hilariously weak. You could drive a tank through its holes. It requires (as one of its principles) that the treaty be implemented in a “universal, objective and non-discriminatory” manner. That is code language for not discriminating against Iran or any other abuser. It says arms exports should “contribute to peace and security,” meaning that Russia can say that providing arms to Syria will contribute to peace and security by helping the Assad regime to win. The problem with this is the same one that inherently dogs any treaty on the arms trade: It will do nothing to stop the bad guys while constraining the good ones.

    Can be brought into force by nations with little stake in it. While the draft requires 65 ratifications to enter into force—which is a surprisingly high number—it does not require that any of these ratifications be by major arms exporters or importers. Thus, the treaty could come into existence and be asserted to be binding international law on the basis of the signatures of states that collectively comprise a tiny share of the world’s population and military power.

    Does not recognize right of individual self-defense. Though the draft’s preamble contains a recognition of lawful private activities, it is only preambular language and says little more than that lawful activities are those permitted by law. It does not recognize national constitutional protections of firearms ownership; it does not exclude legally owned firearms from the treaty’s scope; and it does not recognize the individual right of self-defense.

    This is not a comprehensive assessment of the draft’s problems. And it is fair to note that the U.S. delegation has been working very hard. The draft, for example, cleverly states that the ATT cannot be cited as a reason to void contracts under defense cooperation agreements, such as the U.S.–U.K. Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty. And many of the draft’s unclear points are obviously designed to fuzz up problematic areas and allow everyone to claim that they are getting what they want. But that is ultimately no solution, because fuzzy language will, in the U.S. legal context, be clarified by the Administration’s lawyers, by the courts, or both.

    The motto of this is that the U.S. badly wants to get a treaty—any treaty. However, if you want a treaty bad enough, that’s exactly what you’ll get: a bad treaty.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    16 Responses to Reaction to the Latest Draft of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty

    1. Bobbie says:

      When is this going to stop? We as Americans are not going to lower the level of civility the U.N. promotes! Kissing the booboos of the bad guys while incriminated the law abiding.

      Last Friday's midnight movie massacre is the exact reason people have the human right to defend ourselves with our weapons of choice and now, fight to protect that ability. Criminals don't follow laws. even the once law abiding!!! Duh! We also defend our second amendment right as back up to the acts of governors of states who compromise our safety we pay for by insisting the state needs higher revenue from the self governed or government controlled law enforcement goes on strike! Go on strike! Tax funded government tools and their mental labeling services didn't stop the midnight massacre that an armed citizen would've! Lower our taxes! Get rid of the corruption! We'll enforce civil law on all premises that stand or work in defiance until we ALL respect to comply. We'll take care of the plants…

    2. Mike says:

      Treaty or no treaty….I am not giving up a single round of ammunition to the UN or any other comminist movements….not the least of which is Eric Holder and the ATF. They are ALL a bunch of socialists who just need to get on thier way and leave our country. Maybe the French or Belgians will take them….afterall, they are socialists and gun haters too.

      I am an American gun owner and proud of that. All the same, I'd like to call upon the NRA to step up the efforts and get a favorable image of us gun owners out there. They may just have less legal battles to fight if they presented a favorable image to put the other side's concerns a little more at ease. I do applaud thier efforts to keep the firearms owners and our bill of rights safe! May justice be served to the suspect from Aurora!!

    3. Jimmy C says:

      Defending yourself with a weapon of your choice is not a human right, think i could defend myself with a nuclear bomb?. It is a right in the outdated US Constitution, 2nd Amendment. Try to make your opening sentence an intelligent one otherwise no one will read past it. I didn't.

      • Todd says:

        Outdated US Constitution?

        I guess you are ready to give up ALL of your rights?

        Why don't you just move to another country that has a new Constitution? Try Afghanistan, or maybe even Venezuela. Let us know how your life improved after leaving this country.

        You are a fool if you think the US Constitution is outdated.

      • Bobbie says:

        ooh, forgot to keep in mind the new members of America's "change." The ignorantly irrational, overly sensitive, hypocrites… my apologies! "we have the right to defend ourselves with arms of our choice." Is that better?

    4. …" The president of the U.N. conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) has just released a draft treaty text"…
      How about a link to a copy of the draft text so that others can read through it also???

    5. Lloyd Scallan says:

      We know Obama will sign. What we must do is not forget to hold every Senator that votes YES for this latest attempt to disarm the American people, fully accountable when they face reelection.

    6. Donna D. says:

      Why is Congress even considering any part of this treaty? It should not even be an issue. Throw it out. We should not do business with the U.N. Period!

    7. David Wynne says:

      U.S. out of the UN is the only real answer.

    8. TimAZ says:

      I don't know about the rest of you, but my rights do not originate from any govt. entity. Be it State, Federal, or Global. That means none of them have the authority to deny me my rights as acknowledged in the U.S. Constitution. There really isn't anymore to discuss on the subject.

    9. The US Senate has sent a letter to the UN Commission of this treaty.
      It states that they have 58 Senators that will NOT ratify this.
      It takes 67 to do so. 58 from 100 is is 42.
      So WHY are Obama and Hillary y still signing on to this?
      Because they will put into place ALL enforcement mechanisms UNTIL the Senate acts.
      With a Democrat Senate, they will NOT act. In another 4 years, it will be too late. It will have been enacted.
      THIS is why Obama doesn't care what the Senate says, it what the Senate will do.
      NOTHING!!
      This is what Obama meant when he told the Brady bunch, LAST YEAR, that he was working on gun control under the radar.
      So that BS by Liberals that Obama won't take our guns is pure propaganda and/or ignorance.
      It is a FACT that Obama told the Brady bunch this. Sorry Libs, lying ain't gonna get it on this one.
      Watch and see.

    10. bill in NC says:

      I thought that when a US President tried to turn over our sovereignty to the UN, he was considered a TRAITOR.
      What have I misunderstood here?

      bill–NC

    11. TimAZ says:

      Then we have to ensure that Romney and his secretary of state with drawl from the treaty at a minimum. Better yet a total with drawl from the UN followed by a swift jettison of the UN from U.S. soil. Problem Solved. America can't afford to participate in any more UN Games. That tired old excuse that we have to participate with the UN to keep informed of their actions is no longer a valid argument. Considering how close we are to ruin from these clowns and their operatives within American citizenry. Like Raynoldus Magnus said bombing begins in one hour. Of course he was joking but the message was received loud and clear.

    12. rodney allsworth says:

      the most important issue is the submission of sovereignty to the UN, its almost in the same manner to the EU forcing international airlines to pay the EUs carbon tax on fuel they use. hopefully govts will wake up to this subliminal threat to their sovereignty. which is really the safety net that citizens rely on to safeguard them from foreign intrusion, I am not a gun enthusiast however I truly believe freedom must be defended.

      rod qld

    13. endo says:

      where I can find text of the draft treaty you mentioned?

    14. Leo Houer says:

      any reasons why you are not posting the link to the draft? have you even read it yourself? because your synopsis bears striking ressemblance to an article i just read on FOXNEWS…

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