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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 179
February 27, 2005

This week's issue:
Human Rights Analysis
Law Opinion
Law Campaign
Star Law Analysis
Law news
Fact File
Law Update
Law Week

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Law campaign

Control arms campaign

"A gun is as easy to get as a packet of cigarettes."- Evan Jean Lolless, 34,
serving life imprisonment for murder in the USA, 1997.

The issue is simple. The unregulated supply of weapons makes it easy for criminals to murder, for soldiers to kill indiscriminately, and for police to arbitrarily take lives. Today's weapons are quicker and more powerful than ever before. And in the wrong hands, faster and more powerful weapons mean more abuse and more wasted lives.

It's not just unlawful killings during wartime that is on the increase. Military and security equipment is being misused by soldiers, paramilitaries, and police to kill, wound, and commit terrible atrocities against civilians during peacetime too.

The global misuse of arms has reached crisis point. The flow of arms to those who openly flaunt international human rights and humanitarian laws is being ignored by many governments and companies. Guns especially have never been so easy to obtain. Their increased availability threatens life and liberty in communities and cities around the world. Including yours.

The lack of control of the arms trade is fuelling conflict, poverty, and human rights abuses worldwide. Every government is responsible. It doesn't have to be like this. Oxfam, Amnesty International, and a group of more than 500 NGOs in the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) are calling for a global Arms Trade Treaty to bring the trade in weapons under control and for local action to protect civilians from armed violence.

Today, arms are so prevalent, for example it is estimated that there is one gun for every 10 people on the planet men, women, and children. "The excessive accumulation and illicit trade of small arms is threatening international peace and security, dashing hopes for social and economic development, and jeopardising prospects for democracy and human rights." And it's not just Oxfam, Amnesty International, and IANSA who believe that. These words were spoken in 2002 by UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.

Uncontrolled arms also fuel poverty and suffering. There are around 639 million small arms and light weapons in the world today. Eight million more are produced every year. Without strict control, such weapons will continue to fuel violent conflict, state repression, crime, and domestic abuse. Unless governments act to stop the spread of arms, more lives will be lost, more human rights violations will take place, and more people will be denied the chance to escape poverty. For many years, in our work around the world, Oxfam, Amnesty International, and IANSA have witnessed the human cost of arms abuses and campaigned for tougher arms controls. But now the situation is critical. Urgent measures are needed immediately. Governments need to take action at every level, from communities to the international arena, to stop this suffering.

Sixteen year old Camila Magalhaes Lina from Brazil, lost the use of her legs in 1998, when she was hit by a stray bullet in a shoot out between thieves and private security forces while walking home from school. In the 60 seconds it takes you to read Camila's story, it's likely that another two people, just like her, have been seriously injured by the use of arms. Someone else won't have been so lucky. They're dead. By 2020, the number of deaths and injuries from war and violence will overtake the numbers of deaths caused by killer diseases such as malaria and measles.

Without strict control of arms exports and measures to protect people from their misuse, countless others will continue to suffer the catastrophic consequences of the arms trade. Readily available weapons will intensify and prolong wars. More people will be terrorised and forced from their homes. Families will be prevented from growing food to feed themselves or earning enough money to send their kids to school. Human rights abuses will continue. People will be trapped in poverty. This isn't fiction. Oxfam and Amnesty International and IANSA members work with people who experience these atrocities every day. The only way to end this cycle of poverty and suffering is to control the trade in arms. The time to act is now; face up to the arms crisis!

Source: IANSA (International action network on small arms.

Photo: Control Arms



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