Beyond Viktor Bout

Why the United States Needs an Arms Trade Treaty

Fecha de publicación: 6 Octubre 2011
Autor/a: Colby Goodman, policy consultant (lead author); Scott Stedjan, Senior Policy Advisor for Oxfam America

With the trial of Viktor Bout nearly underway and the UN negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) starting in the summer of 2012, this briefing paper seeks to provide a deeper understanding of the challenges the US government faces in tackling unscrupulous arms brokers abroad and to show how the adoption of a strong and comprehensive ATT could help the United States and other governments in such efforts.

While the United States has brought several well-known arms traffickers, including Mr. Bout, in this period, it has faced serious challenges in halting illegal activity by arms brokers, particularly those based or operating abroad. According to current and former US officials and available information on cases, two of the problems the US government continually encounters in enforcing US laws and in urging governments to stop such brokers are weak national laws related to international arms transfers.

A comprehensive Arms Trade Treaty could provide the framework to resolve jurisdictional issues allowing illicit brokers to avoid prosecution and encourage greater cooperation between states to stamp out such activities. To close the gaps that allow illicit brokers to operate with few constraints, the US must strongly support and work to craft and effective and robust ATT.

Key recommendations

For an Arms Trade Treaty to be an effective tool assisting the US and other governments stop illegal arms brokering it must:

  • Be comprehensive in scope – covering all types of conventional weapons, all types of transfers and all types of transactions.
  • Include provisions covering the multi-jurisdictional nature of arms brokering and the procedures for prosecution in such cases.
  • Require national implementation measures, including legislation, to ensure the Treaty’s full, clear implementation.