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With Indian Copters in Burma and Congo, Tanks for S. Sudan, Arms Trade Treaty Called For

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, October 21 -- As a ship full of over 30 tanks remains captured by pirates off Somalia's coast, reportedly bound by way of Kenya for war-scarred South Sudan where in the same week a planeload of weapons from Ethiopia was flown in, in New York a message from South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu was carried Tuesday morning to the missions to the UN of all 192 member states.

  A visit to the Tutu-message command center by Inner City Press at 11:30 a.m. found a third of the deliveries made, with some notable exceptions, China, Kenya and Ethiopia among them. The U.S. mission had been visited, but the U.S. remains an opponent of the Arms Trade Treaty called for in the message. UN Headquarters this week is full of fliers and events about such a Treaty, called an ATT, complete with a six foot mock pair of eyes glasses on the theme, the world is watching.

  At one such event last week, international lawyer Clare da Silva explained that international law supports an Arms Trade Treaty. Flicking through PointPoint slides with quotes from the UN Charter, she cited a 1982 General Assembly report that

"[a] State may incur responsibility if it (...) provides material aid to a state that uses the aid to commit human rights violations. In this respect, the General Assembly has called on Member States in a number of cases to refrain from supplying arms and other military assistance to countries found to be committing serious human rights violations." A/37/745

  To use a particular sale as an example, how then to view India's offer of surveillance aircraft and other military assistance to Myanmar, which in September 2007 shot peacefully protesting monks dead in the street, and this year blocked and then stole assistance to Burmese people impacted by Cyclone Nargis?

Burning weapons on Cote d'Ivoire, flow to South Sudan and Myanmar not shown

   India has not, it appears, rescinded its offer of Dhruv advanced light helicopters to Myanmar. Meanwhile, Indian soldiers operating as part of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Congo, MONUC, are supporting the Congolese army in assaults on the rebels of renegade General Laurent Nkunda, in a conflict in which both sides have killed and displaced civilians.

  Inner City Press on Tuesday asked Congo's Ambassador to the UN about reports that the Indian peacekeepers in South Kivu refused to engage with Nkunda's forces earlier this year, and instead returned to their UN paid-for base. He acknowledged that the Indian forces called their capital, New Delhi, and received an interpretation of Chapter Seven of the UN Charter different that MONUC's, and thus refused to fight.

  He went on to praise more recent Indian actions in Eastern Congo, specifically attack helicopter attacks in support of the Congolese army. But isn't the Congolese army, the FARDC, been even by the UN "found to be committing serious human rights violations"? So could the UN itself by in violation of international law in its action in the Congo and elsewhere? Perhaps a 193rd message from Archbishop Tutu should have been delivered -- to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He was in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Tuesday, but will be back in Headquarters on Wednesday. We'll see.

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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