By Monia Ghanmi
Human rights activists around the world are rallying behind the proposed International Arms Trade Treaty (IATT) by the United Nations.
Ahead of the UN conference on the treaty scheduled for next month, Amnesty International Tunisia organised a meeting on Friday (June 22nd) to promote the country’s adhesion to the IATT.
According to Amnesty International Tunisia head Lotfi Azzouz, the goal of the campaign is to help protect human rights, which are undermined by irresponsible trade in arms and ammunition.
He stressed that even as the movement of arms to groups and governments grows, there is no international monitoring of the trade. The meeting in New York will offer a unique opportunity to establish binding rules to regulate this type of trade, he added.
According to the report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute issued in March 2012, the arms trade grew during the period 2007-2011, compared to the previous four years.
Total international arms trade for the period amounted to $128,343 million.
The most prominent increases were in East Africa, North Africa, Southeast Asia and the South Caucasus.
The report also highlighted that Tunisia, unlike the rest of North Africa, does not pay much attention to the field of armament.
Algeria ranked eighth in the world and the first in Africa, accounting for 48% of African weapons. Morocco ranked 36th, and Mauritania ranked 99th.
Tunisia ranked 102nd.
Said Mechihi, Secretary of State at the Interior Ministry, attributed this to the arms-control regulations enacted in Tunisia after independence.
Law No. 33 of 1969 bans the supply or trafficking of arms and ammunition, or carrying them without a license, and makes violations punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine.
However, Mechihi added, this does not mean Tunisia is immune from the dangers of weapons and threats posed by militant groups, the presence of which has grown since the events of the Arab spring.
“We must give importance and consideration to the seriousness of threats by militant groups for whom arms represent the sole means of their activity,” he said.
The official called for vigilance and caution about the activities of these groups that rely on weapons in the Sahel-Saharan region, given the fragile situation in Libya and the collapse of the regime in Mali.
“We will not allow our country to be a transit corridor or area of residence for the armed groups or to become stores for weapons,” Mechichi said.
For his part, Minister of Human Rights and Transitional Justice Samir Dilou commented that bearing arms should be limited solely to national armies and security forces.
“Modern experience has shown that people cannot advance unless the use of weapons is limited to the army and security forces,” Dilou said.