Press Releases

Senators Feinstein, Akaka, Feingold, Durbin, Harkin, Leahy, Levin and Reed Push for U.S. Support of Arms Trade Treaty

– Letter urges Secretary of State Clinton to be a proponent of treaty to regulate interstate transfer of weapons –

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and seven of her Senate colleagues are urging Secretary of State Clinton to be a strong proponent of an international Arms Trade Treaty to regulate the interstate transfer of conventional weapons.
            
The second session of the UN Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) on the Arms Trade Treaty is scheduled to convene at the United Nations next month. The Working Group is tasked with creating international regulations on the export, import and international transfer of arms to help prevents the flow of weapons to world conflict zones.

Over the past two decades, the largely unregulated trade of arms has fueled violent conflicts, facilitated human rights violations, armed insurgent groups and undermined efforts towards sustainable development. 

The Arms Trade Treaty process has already gained the support of more than 140 governments at the United Nations.

The seven other senators who have signed on to the legislation include: Senators Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii); Richard Durbin (D-Ill.); Russ Feingold (D-Wis.); Tom Harkin (D-Iowa);  Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.); Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.).

Following is the text of the letter sent by Senators Feinstein, Akaka, Durbin, Feingold, Harkin, Leahy, Levin and Reed to Secretary of State Clinton: 
                                                                  
June 16, 2009

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Madame Secretary:

As you may know, the second session of the UN Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) on the Arms Trade Treaty is about to convene at the United Nations from July 13 to 17 in New York.  At the previous session, U.S. Ambassador Donald A. Mahley made a statement saying the United States is undergoing a full review of the Treaty.  We welcome this statement and urge you to be an active proponent of a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty at the United Nations.

Over the past two decades, the largely unregulated trade in conventional weapons has fueled violent conflicts, facilitated grave violations of human rights, undermined efforts towards sustainable development, and helped arm insurgent groups around the world.  A significant source of arms to conflict zones and to known human rights violators continues to be irresponsible arms exports by countries around the world.  While currently legal under international law, these irresponsible transfers often fuel the illicit arms trade.  For example, recent evidence indicates that arms and ammunition transferred to Yemen has been illegally transshipped across the Gulf of Aden into Somalia, arming virtually every fighting force in Somalia and helping to fuel the conflict.

Unlike with the proliferation of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, there is no global legal instrument that regulates the interstate transfer of conventional weapons.  It is time for this national security loop hole to be filled. 

Spearheaded by seven governments from every continent, including the United Kingdom and Japan, the Arms Trade Treaty process has already gained the support of over 140 governments at the United Nations. This process calls for the creation of international regulations on the export, import, and international transfer of conventional arms to help prevent arms transfers to parties under UN arms embargoes and those likely to commit grave human rights violations, acts of terrorism, and other violations of international law.

Given the threat posed by the proliferation of conventional arms to U.S. national security interests, it is critical that the United States actively engage in the Arms Trade Treaty process.  As the world’s largest exporter of conventional weapons and a government that is widely considered to have the gold-standard on arms export controls, the United States has a special responsibility to promote responsible global arms trade.  Such was the intention behind the International Arms Sales Code of Conduct Act, passed by Congress in November 1999, which required the President to begin negotiations toward a multilateral regime of arms export criteria.  The second Working Group offers the opportunity to engage in such negotiations.
 
We urge you to be an active proponent of a strong Arms Trade Treaty at the United Nations in the upcoming Working Group discussions.  We also look forward to future collaboration between the State Department and the Senate as you work with U.S. allies to further global efforts to control the global arms market and pursue global standards as enshrined in U.S. law.

Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein                                       Richard Durbin                              
United States Senator                              United States Senator

Daniel Akaka                                             Russ Feingold
United States Senator                              United States Senator

Tom Harkin                                                Patrick Leahy
United States Senator                              United States Senator

Carl Levin                                                   Jack Reed
United States Senator                               United States Senator


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