- New research has revealed that rebels in Congo Kinshasa had access to arms from several countries that are sceptical towards the UN's arms control action. This was shown by bullets found in the region of Ituri, the country's eastern district, where the UN has imposed an arms embargo.
The research, jointly conducted by Amnesty International, Oxfam and International Action Network on Small Arms, found that the said bullets were found in countries that have been key sceptics of UN Arms Trade Treaty Research - Greece, China, Russia, and US are among key sceptics on Arms Trade Treaty Research.
Conducted in September 2006, the research reveals origins of a sample of arms and ammunition recovered from rebel groups since the imposition of the UN arms embargo in 2003.
International munitions experts identified the serial numbers and relevant markings and head-stamps on cartridges of the arms and revealed that they were manufactured in China, Greece, Russia, South Africa, Serbia and the US.
The researchers could not tell how the rebels in Ituri acquire the arms, which include bullets of rifle, sniper rifle, R4 assault rifles, assault rifles, and a Serbian pistol. Over 50 percent of these arms that found their way illegally into eastern Congo Kinshasa are AK 47s.
The research had "underscored" the urgent need for an Arms Trade Treaty to stem the flood of arms into conflict zones, the human rights groups held. The release of the report is timely, as it comes a week before the UN is expected to vote on a resolution that will ensure the treaty on arms trade to work.
"This is believed to be the first time that US and Greek bullets have been recovered from rebel groups in eastern DRC, highlighting the global sources of the arms fuelling fighting in the region," a press release by the human rights groups said.
It is believed that the weapons and bullets were sold directly to rebels in eastern Congo, which breaches the UN arms embargo and that they likely entered Ituri district through neighbouring countries, which is why there was "need for an Arms Trade Treaty to establish global standards for arms sales based on international law," the groups said.
"This is just one example of how lax arms controls fuel conflict and suffering worldwide. UN arms embargoes are like dams against tidal waves; alone they cannot stop weapons flooding in. Only a tough global Arms Trade Treaty could stem the flow of arms to the world's war zones," Oxfam director Jeremy Hobbs noted.
At the UN last week, a resolution to start work on the treaty was tabled by seven governments and co-sponsored by 77 other governments. The resolution is likely to be put to a vote in the UN General Assembly's First Committee early next week.
The Control Arms Campaign - backed by 20 Nobel Peace Prize laureates - is calling for an Arms Trade Treaty to ban the international transfer of weapons and other military equipment when there is a clear risk that these will be used to commit gross human rights violations, to fuel conflict or to undermine development.
"Rebel groups in the Eastern DRC have an appalling track record of rape, torture and killing of civilians as well as a history of using children as soldiers. That bullets from so many countries have fuelled these abuses is yet another indication that an Arms Trade Treaty must become a reality," said Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
"With 1000 people dying every day from gun violence, governments can no longer ignore this horror story that repeats itself from Congo to Colombia to Iraq. It is time for an Arms Trade Treaty to stop these weapons from falling into the wrong hands," said Charles Nasibu, a Congolese small arms researcher and activist.
Researchers had visited compounds in eastern Ituri region of Bunia to obtain photographic evidence of munitions and weapons recovered from rebel forces since the imposition of the UN arms embargo in July 2003. This followed a previous field mission to Ituri in November 2005 to help identify weapon sources. Armed groups in the Ituri District and neighbouring Kivu Provinces have been subject to various arms embargoes, including by the EU, which was imposed in April 1993.
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