News / Africa

Amnesty Warns of Misuse of Traded Weapons

Confiscated weapons are displayed after a military raid on a hideout of suspected Islamist Boko Haram members in Nigeria's northern city of Kano August 11, 2012.
Confiscated weapons are displayed after a military raid on a hideout of suspected Islamist Boko Haram members in Nigeria's northern city of Kano August 11, 2012.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Amnesty International says women and girls are often targeted in armed conflict. But it says very often, even after the conflict ends, they continue to be victims of violence. On International Women’s Day (3/8), the human rights group says controlling the arms trade could help reduce that violence.


Widney Brown says the effects of conflict on women and girls have been well-documented.

“We’ve done a lot of research in which we’ve understood how much women, as civilians, are often caught in the middle of a conflict – sometimes the unintentional victims and sometimes the targeted victims,” she said.

Brown, Amnesty International’s senior director of international law and policy, said, “Where I first became aware of it was in Bosnia, in the former Yugoslavia, where I think the women’s rights activists were very well organized – were very articulate – in talking about this.”

Just because a conflict has ended, does not mean violence has stopped.

“Many of the men, who were combatants, often keep their weapons. And, if you think about it, a lot of them are themselves traumatized. But they’ve also been living sometimes for months, sometimes for years, in which using their weapon is sort of the solution to the problem. And so violence becomes rather normative in their societies. And in these cases, what happens, it’s often in the private sphere of the family that you end up seeing a lot of violence against women,” she said.

She added, however, that conflict or post-conflict violence against women is not isolated to domestic situations.

Brown said that governments and private brokers should be aware that the weapons they sell could end up in the wrong hands.

“Are they actually looking at where those weapons are ending up and who’s actually at the lethal end of those weapons?”

Amnesty proposes that governments and arms dealers conduct an assessment of countries or groups before finalizing the sale of weapons.

Brown said, “The assessment is: is there substantial likelihood that these arms will be used to commit atrocities. So that’s war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide. For instance, much of the arms flowing into the Democratic Republic of Congo are actually being diverted from the intended user – picked up by groups like M23, who are quite notorious for their current practice and historical practice of intense violence against women.”

M23 is one of the many rebel groups in eastern Congo.

The United Nations will soon work on the final text of the proposed arms trade treaty. It’s scheduled to meet from March 18th through the 28th in New York. The meeting was called after intense negotiations late last year failed to reach agreement.

Brown said that the arms trade is a $60 billion a year industry. The U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France -- five permanent members of the Security Council – are also major arms suppliers. Nevertheless, she said governments have an interest in making sure the weapons are not diverted.

“So the U.S. doesn’t want to find out that weapons it ships to Egypt end up in the hands of a group they think might turn around and target the U.S. Equally true, Russia doesn’t want to ship arms to Syria and find out that they actually got diverted and are being sent to rebels in the Caucuses. China doesn’t want to send weapons to Zimbabwe and find out they ended up in Xinjiang. So there is a self-interest level to this treaty.”

The arms trade treaty is not a weapons ban, like the landmine or cluster munitions conventions. Amnesty International says it recognizes the right of nations to self-defense. However, it says women and girls suffer due to the “proliferation and misuse of arms.”

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid