Stop a Bullet, Stop a War: Ammunition must be Included in the Arms Trade Treaty (3-3)
This report was prepared and published by Oxfam International as a contribution on the ongoing debate to draft the international agreement to control small arms and ammunitions.
An Undeniable Risk: Tracing illicit ammunition in Côte d’Ivoire
In 2010, the UN Group of Experts on Côte d’ Ivoire were asked to trace several thousand rounds of illicit ammunition found in the hands of civilians in the capital. The Group’s work, and subsequent follow-up investigations, established that the ammunition had been manufactured in Serbia, sold to an agent in Israel, and then legally re-transferred to the military in Burkina Faso. It had then disappeared and re-appeared on the streets of Abidjan in neighbouring Cote d’ Ivoire.
While the exact details of the diversion could not be established, the Group maintained that, based on credible evidence, the ammunition likely entered Côte d ’Ivoire via Burkina Faso, revealing clear challenges to the capacity of the Government of Burkina Faso to ensure the security of its national stockpile and prevent diversion. Further investigations, physical evidence, and key informant reports verified that Burkina Faso was the primary conduit for illicit supplies of both arms and ammunition to Côte d’ Ivoire, illustrating a high risk of arms originating from the
Transparency and reporting
Given that current levels of public reporting on the transfer of ammunition are so low, improved reporting on such transfers, as a discrete category under an ATT, would greatly reduce the significant gaps in information which currently blight the system. Improved public reporting on authorised ammunition transfers would increase opportunities for citizens to scrutinise and hold their governments to account for their arms transfer decisions. It would also provide a valuable source of information for UN Groups monitoring implementation of UN Security Council embargoes.19
Existing best practice for reporting on ammunition transfers has not been shown to pose undue logistical challenges. Despite claims that ammunition transfers are so large as to represent an unmanageable part of the global arms trade, the number of licences that EU member states granted for ammunition transfers in 2010 amounted to a mere 4.8 per cent of the number of licences granted for all military equipment.20
Since the ATT will apply only to international transfers, reporting will not oblige states to divulge sensitive information, such as existing stockpile quantities or domestic production.21 Additionally, as reporting will occur months, if not years, after a transfer has been authorized, sensitive security information about military operations will not be jeopardised.
Call to Action and Recommendations for Negotiators
Supportive states must set out specific means to demonstrate how ammunition can be practically and effectively controlled under an ATT. Existing best practice already provides a concrete basis and has demonstrated that it does not require elaborate additional mechanisms or infrastructure, or present undue logistical or reporting challenges. Supportive states should argue for:
The explicit inclusion of ammunition within the scope of the ATT
The scope of the ATT should explicitly include ammunition and make clear that ammunition transfers are subject to the same risk assessment criteria as transfers of arms, prior to authorisation.
Ammunition for use in all firearms covered by the ATT, including small arms and light weapons, should be explicitly included in the Treaty. The definition used should ensure that all ammunition calibres, as well as munitions, are covered by the ATT. Definitions found in existing international arrangements such as the Wassenaar Arrangement and EU Common Position would provide a useful basis.
Clear and practical reporting requirements
Reporting on ammunition transfers under an ATT should be consistent with regional and national best practice. At a minimum they should include:
• The country of destination;
• The financial value of the transaction;
• An indication of the quantity – either lot numbers or overall quantity of individual rounds; and
• Whether the export is for a commercial or state actor market.
States should strongly consider including additional categories in reports that identify broad ammunition types (e.g. small arms ammunition), sub-categories such as machine pistol or assault rifle ammunition, or even calibre sizes. This more detailed information would be consistent with the current reporting standards of many countries including the UK , Romania , Germany , and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro . Additionally, more detailed information has proven highly useful to map and verify patterns of ammunition acquisition in particular conflict situations or following a violent event, and could play an instrumental role in preventing subsequent transfers where a risk of diversion or misuse is high.
By Alula Berhe Kidani, 28/07/2012