Amnesty International and Act for Peace held a demonstration in Martin Place, Sydney to send a message to US President Barack Obama to reject the human rights escape clause in the current UN arms trade negotiations.
The demonstration started at about 12:30pm and finished at about 1pm on Wednesday, 18 July 2012.
About the organisationsAmnesty International is as “a global movement of over 3 million people committed to defending those who are denied justice or freedom.”
In May, Digital Journal reported on Amnesty International’s report: State of the World’s Human Rights.
Act for Peace is “The international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia.”
Amnesty International and Act for Peace send message to Obama about maintaining human rights in the arms trade treaty - Martin Place, Sydney.
Why were they protesting?
Amnesty International Australia’s website reports that “A historic treaty that could help stop human rights abusers getting their hands on deadly weapons is being negotiated at the United Nations in New York now.”
Further details about Amnesty International’s ‘Arms Trade Treaty’ campaign can be seen here.
Further details about Act for Peace’s ‘Arms Trade Treaty’ campaign can be seen here.
To find out more, Digital Journal interviewed Ming Yu, Campaigner for Arms Trade Treaty from Amnesty International and Alistair Gee, Executive Director of Act for Peace.
Ming Yu, Campaign Coordinator, Amnesty International Australia
Digital Journal asked Ming what the connection with Obama was?
“So essentially there’s one person killed every minute by armed violence. A lot of these deaths are fuelled by a poorly regulated weapons trade. So at the moment the US is the world’s largest arms exporter. It supplies around 35% of the world’s exports. So with that is the first ever Arms Trade Treaty [which] can properly regulate the weapons trade which will prevent a lot of needless suffering.
“Now Because the US is the world’s largest arms exporter, we’re really urging that President Obama and his colleagues in the government and in the Congress, etc. to take leadership and to ensure that human rights are the utmost priority. At the moment they’re suggesting or proposing that national security criteria can override human rights. So what we are urging them is that human rights protection needs to be the utmost priority. That weapons…specifically the golden rule, which is that weapons transfers between countries should not occur if we know that weapons are likely to be used to commit war crimes and gross human rights violations. So that’s when weapons transfers need to stop.
“But at the moment we see that Russia is continuing to supply weapons to Syria and 10,000 have [been] killed. Now the US continues to supply to Egypt and yet the authorities in Egypt are brutally cracking down on their own citizens. The Chinese supply to Sudan. So these patterns exist.
“So what we’re saying with the Arms Trade Treaty is we have this wonderful opportunity to ensure that millions of people’s lives are not put at stake, because of irresponsible weapons transfers and that’s the chance that President Obama and his government has.”
Ming then explained to Digital Journal why the demonstration was happening at this time.
“It’s because the 193 governments are meeting at the United Nations in New York this month. This week is the critical negations on human rights protection criteria - the sessions are being held Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
“It’s critical that not only Australians, but everyone around the world sends a clear and strong message to the US, that they need to take leadership; that they need to step up.”
Alistair Gee, Executive Director, Act for Peace
Alistair explained to Digital Journal why they were protesting to President Obama.
“We’re very concerned that the US is leading a number of other arms exporting countries in trying to water down the human rights provisions in the Arms Trade Treaty. It is these human rights provisions that will be most effective in preventing the sorts of sales of arms to countries, which commit mass atrocities against their citizens.
DJ: Any countries in particular that you would like to mention?
“They sell them to a lot of countries. In terms of recent uprisings, the situation in Egypt, where US arms were used to oppress the citizens; and of the other exporting countries, Russia is selling a lot of arms that are being used currently in Syria; UK arms will be used in Libya against civilians. So a lot of the situations we’re seeing around the world right now…well a lot of lives could have been saved had this Arms Trade Treaty been in place over the last year.
DJ: What message would you send to President Obama if he sees this article?
“When he reads this article! We would like him to understand that the vast majority of countries in the world want a ‘bulletproof’ Arms Trade Treaty that upholds human rights and prevents mass atrocities and we want the US to come on board and recognise that we want them and the other major arms exporting countries to fall in line with what it will take to save lives.”
Further images of the demonstration can be seen here.
Could a Digital Journal reader in the US that knows President Barack Obama please forward him this article?