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Nobel Laureates, celebrities, retired generals, faith leaders, and legal professionals deliver letters to White House in support of Arms Trade Treaty

March 14, 2013
(L-R) Ray Offenheiser, President, Oxfam America; Galen Carey, National Association of Evangelicals; Frank Jannuzi, Deputy Executive Director Amnesty International USA; Dr. Thomasson; and actor Djimon Hounsou

(L-R) Ray Offenheiser, President, Oxfam America; Galen Carey, National Association of Evangelicals; Frank Jannuzi, Deputy Executive Director Amnesty International USA; Dr. Thomasson; and actor Djimon Hounsou

Physicians for Social Responsibility’s Executive Director Dr. Catherine Thomasson today delivered to senior White House National Security staff a letter signed by 18 Nobel Peace Laureates including IPPNW, Amnesty International, former president Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Leymah Gbowee, and Oscar Arias, calling on President Obama to support a strong Arms Trade Treaty at the upcoming UN Diplomatic Conference.

Dr. Thomasson was part of a delegation that included representatives from the faith, legal, military and human rights communities who delivered other letters of a similar nature signed by leading members of those constituencies. President Obama is expected to make a statement on the ATT today or tomorrow.

“International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War participated in the historic 1997 meeting in New York of a small group of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, convened by Oscar Arias, who called for an International Code of Conduct on arms trade that would benefit all of humanity,” said Dr. Thomasson at the handover meeting. “After 15 long years and millions killed, maimed or traumatized by gun violence, we are hopeful that this month the world’s countries will make history and finally enact a humanitarian-based Arms Trade Treaty.”

The letters were delivered just four days prior to the start of the ATT Diplomatic Conference in New York scheduled for March 18-28.

“The US and other arms supplier states have both a moral duty and a national security interest to help achieve [a strong] Treaty in order to protect human rights and save the lives of innocent civilians caught in the crosshairs of conflicts fuelled by the irresponsible international conventional weapons trade,” the Nobel laureates said in the letter. “As humanitarians and peacemakers, we cannot accept the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people around the world who are gunned down each year, with millions left maimed and traumatized…The poorly regulated arms trade fuels conflict, violence, and serious violations of human rights, with devastating effects on health, security, and sustainable social and economic development.”

In a joint IPPNW and Amnesty International press release issued today, IPPNW’s co-president Dr. Bob Mtonga commented “As an African physician, I have seen too much personal human suffering from gun violence. Multiplied worldwide, the unregulated arms trade results in a global public health catastrophe,” said Mtonga. “A strong Arms Trade Treaty will be a huge step forward in preventing further unnecessary injury and death from armed violence. President Obama’s support will enhance the prospects for achieving this urgent humanitarian agreement.”

Amnesty International has repeatedly flagged the need for a Golden Rule in the Arms Trade Treaty to require states to stop an international arms transfer that is likely to contribute to war crimes and other serious human rights violations. The human rights movement has been working for almost two decades to secure an Arms Trade Treaty with human rights protections at its core.

“When the Nobel Committee awarded President Obama the peace prize in 2009, it was to recognize his aspiration for positive change in his country and the world – this treaty is a litmus test for the US President to show that he can deliver a credible global instrument to rein in the irresponsible activities of the international arms trade,” said Brian Wood, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International.

“Every capital around the world will be watching and waiting – millions of lives are being ruined every year by the global arms trade fuelling atrocities and abuses, and the survivors have had enough. World opinion will not accept a watered-down treaty with loopholes.”

In other letters, remarks included the following:

“One treaty alone cannot end war and violence. But the Arms Trade Treaty can help keep weapons out of the hands of those threatening U.S. troops, missionaries, humanitarian workers and innocent civilians around the globe,” stated a number of faith leaders, including Galen Carey with the National Association of Evangelicals, Jim Winkler with the United Methodist Church, and the leadership of the Presbyterian Church (USA). “A safer and more stable world benefits all of us. The U.S. should demonstrate its global moral leadership by working to finalize the Arms Trade Treaty by the end of March.”

“We know that no single treaty can put an end to terrorist attacks, human rights abuses, or stop those determined to do evil,” stated the letter signed by a dozen retired US Generals. “But if crafted ambitiously and wisely, the Arms Trade Treaty will be a significant step we can and must take toward dramatically reducing the weapons available to those would use them to harm civilians and threaten our national security.”

“The Arms Trade Treaty presents a unique and important opportunity to build global normative standards around international arms transfers and thereby advance the cause of peace, stability and human rights worldwide,” stated a letter signed by nearly 500 legal professionals and scholars across the United States. “We urge your strong and active support.”

“The world looks to the United States to lead on human rights. Now is the time for us to demonstrate that leadership by endorsing the Arms Trade Treaty,” stated a letter signed by a number of American celebrities, including Djimon Hounsou, Kristin Davis, and Rooney Mara. “As Americans of conscience, we have a responsibility to ensure that children and their families, wherever they are, can live free of violence.”

A number of U.S. organizations have been coordinating a push towards an Arms Trade Treaty, including IPPNW, American Values Network, Amnesty International USA, Arms Control Association, National Association of Evangelicals, and Oxfam America. Global coordination has been led by the Control Arms coalition, of which a number of these organizations are members of. IPPNW serves on the Control Arms Steering Board.

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