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Lack of Human Rights Language Cited at UN Small Arms Review Conference


The UN review conference on small arms has entered its final week and there’s growing controversy over the latest draft of the summit’s final document. Critics say the document no longer contains any reference to human rights and international humanitarian law.

One of the leading critics to the draft document is Mary Robinson, former president or Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. From London, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about her concerns.

“This is a review of a conference five years ago in which some promises and commitments were made that are actually in a way being diluted in not having any reference in the text at the moment to international human rights law or international humanitarian law as part of the global rules that are needed to control arms. In those five years 1.8 million people were killed by small arms. They are the weapons of mass destruction as I saw when I was UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and visiting the Congo, visiting Sierra Leone, The Balkans, East Timor. It’s terrible what’s happening now with the militia in Darfur, killing and raping women at the end of a gun. It’s just awful we’re not seeing the urgency in tackling this,” she says.

If the final document for the small arms review conference fails to contain the language Ms. Robinson desires, will she consider it worthless? She says, ”I afraid I think we will be seeing the same lack of commitment that led to nearly two million people being killed by small arms in the last five years. I fail to understand how government representatives can go into a negotiation like this and not use the strongest language. We need extremely strong, explicit linkage of the commitments of governments under international human rights and humanitarian law…and the language used now is some indication of the political will.”

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