“Merchant of Death” Trial Highlights Need for Arms Trade Treaty
October 10, 2011

Lack of International Standards Forces Viktor Bout Trial to Ignore Most Destructive Reported Activities

New York: The trial of Viktor Bout is scheduled to start tomorrow in New York with jury selection. The international arms broker, often called the “Merchant of Death” and believed to be the main inspiration to the arms dealer portrayed by Nicolas Cage in the film “The Lord of War,” is alleged to have employed hundreds of people, used his own fleet of aircraft, and forged documents to traffic weapons that have fueled civil wars in Angola, Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Afghanistan over the past two-plus decades.

His trial, however, will have nothing to do will those alleged activities. Instead, he will face charges of conspiring to kill Americans and provide material support to a terrorist organization after being caught in 2008 by Thai police officers in Bangkok, following a sting operation led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. According to U.S. indictments, Bout had promised to supply surface-to-air missiles, AK-47s, landmines, and explosives to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a US-designated terrorist organization.

“The fact that the United States needed to mount an international sting operation in order to bring one of the world’s most notorious suspected arms brokers to trial vividly demonstrates that the current international system is broken,” said Jeff Abramson, Coordinator of the Control Arms Secretariat. “A robust Arms Trade Treaty will lead to all countries adopting arms brokering and arms trade laws, closing the legal loopholes that continue to let the black market thrive,” he added.

Member states of the United Nations will meet in July 2012 to negotiate a global ATT to establish standards to regulate the international arms trade. A strong agreement would harmonize diverse national laws on the trade in armaments and ammunition, including activities conducted by brokers. The lack of brokering controls have created the legal loopholes that allow actions like those Bout is believed to have conducted to continue with impunity, making it easier to divert arms and ammunition into the hands of criminals and those who have used them to abuse human rights and hinder economic development. One person dies every minute (an estimated 740,000 annual deaths worldwide) as a result of armed violence.

Contact: Jeff Abramson, Coordinator, Control Arms Secretariat at 212-682-3086 jeff@controlarms.org

Control Arms is a global civil society alliance campaigning for a “bulletproof” Arms Trade Treaty that will protect lives and livelihoods. A “bulletproof” Arms Trade Treaty means an international legally-binding agreement that will stop transfers of arms and ammunitions that fuel conflict, poverty and serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Visit us: http://www.controlarms.org

Download the press release here.

Look through the list of previous Control Arms updates.
October 8, 2012