Generals and war correspondents unite to call for tough arms control

Published: 3 October 2007

The Control Arms campaign: Oxfam International, Amnesty International and the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA)

Five ex-military leaders and war correspondents, including Janine di Giovanni and former UN commanders in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti, will today urge the United Nations to push for more stringent controls on the international arms trade.

They have come to the UN to support the development of a global Arms Trade Treaty, which is currently being discussed by the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, following an overwhelming positive response by governments in the last year.

All five speakers have worked in some of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones, including Bosnia, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and have seen the death and destruction caused when weapons get into the wrong hands.

Major-General Patrick Cammaert and Brigadier-General Robin Gagnon commanded the UN forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti respectively. Lt General Dr BS Malik commanded battlefield troops and is a member of India’s leading defence and strategic studies think-tank.

“Every day in Haiti I had to deal with armed groups terrorizing the civilian population,” said Brigadier-General Gagnon. “I believe stronger arms controls would have seriously hampered the armed groups’ fighting ability. An arms trade treaty is not about stopping responsible weapons sales for defence, policing or peacekeeping. It’s about making it hard for criminals and human rights abusers to get hold of guns and ammunition.”

Janine di Giovanni is one of Europe’s most respected war reporters, having covered the fall of Grozny, the siege of Sarajevo, the Palestinian intifada and other conflicts for the Times of London, Vanity Fair and has written four books about wars. Jimmie Briggs, a journalist for Life magazine, has written a book – “Innocents Lost” – on the plight of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and other war-torn countries.

“In more than 15 years of reporting conflict, innocent civilians paid the cruellest cost of the small arms trade,” said Ms di Giovanni. “If there were tougher arms control, there would less terror, less tragedy and less suffering.”

The event is being organized by Control Arms, a joint global campaign run by Oxfam International, Amnesty International and the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA).

“All five of our speakers today have seen first-hand the horrors caused by the almost completely unregulated arms trade,” said Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam International, speaking on behalf of the Control Arms campaign. “It’s very significant that these generals are supporting the Arms Trade Treaty. They understand an effective treaty will not prevent responsible arms sales or interfere in the legitimate rights of states to arm themselves.

“The two journalists on our panel today have witnessed the horror of armed violence around the world. The globalized but virtually unregulated arms trade only exacerbates these horrors.

“All five speakers have seen how conflicts are prolonged and development derailed because weapons and ammunition are cheap and easily available.”

Contact Information

The press conference will take place at 10am on Tues Oct 9th in the press room at the UN building.

For more information, please contact:

Sean Kenny +44 7881 655 715, skenny@oxfam.org.uk

Jen Abrahamson, + 1 212 687 2150, cell phone +1 202 321 7858, Jennifer.Abrahamson@oxfaminternational.org