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

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.