Human Rights Developments
The year 1999 saw a heightened international sensitivity to the harm done to civilians by organized gun-toting killers-be they government troops, paramilitary thugs, or guerrilla fighters. Facing a proliferation of both internal and international armed conflicts-in Afghanistan, Angola, Chechnya, Colombia, the two Congos, East Timor, Eritrea/Ethiopia, Kashmir, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and elsewhere-governments, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) launched a series of initiatives to tackle a problem that appeared to be spinning out of control.
Whereas military-style weapons were traditionally seen as mere implements of war, a new realization emerged that such weapons, while not by themselves causing violence, contributed to the spread of violence by offering what was often perceived as a swift and effective way to address grievances or settle differences. Easier access to arms translated into quicker resort to them in situations in which alternative modes of redress might otherwise have been attempted. As a result, the widespread availability of military weapons, especially small arms and light weapons, made armed conflicts both more protracted and intractable, while snaring previously unarmed members of the population, including children, into the fighting.
The human rights of ever growing numbers of civilians thus came under threat. First, the steady stream of small arms, light weapons, ammunition, and explosives into areas of armed conflict sent a powerful signal to the buyers that they were receiving more than just shipments of lethal equipment: They interpreted the international community's failure to curb the trade in arms as a wink and a nod at their conduct in warfare, however brutal and however much in violation of international standards of human rights and humanitarian law. Abusive forces were thus encouraged in carrying out further abuses and, confident they could prevail, resisting calls for a nonviolent resolution of their conflict.
Furthermore, the widespread availability of light weapons also meant that ever larger sectors of the population could be drawn into a conflict. As a result, arms devolved into the hands of civilians who, in the absence of a clear military command structure, were often poorly trained and undisciplined, accountable to no one but local commanders who themselves were responsible for committing the worst atrocities. Conflicts previously marked by the use of spears, bows and arrows, and machetes increasingly witnessed greater destruction as these traditional implements were replaced by assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades against which rural communities had no protection.
If the spread of armed conflicts inflated the demand for weapons, changes in the countries of the former East Bloc fueled the supply. Downsizing their military forces and converting their arsenals to NATO standards, these countries continued to dump large amounts of surplus weaponry on the international arms market. This had the effect of driving down prices of infantry weapons (but also of tanks and helicopters), making these affordable even to some of the poorest nations on earth, as well as to nonstate actors.
Vivid images of atrocities in 1999 helped stir public pressure for military intervention in Kosovo and East Timor. These same images also began to galvanize the international community to devise mechanisms to restrict the trade in arms and other lethal equipment, as well as the provision of military training. At the millennium's end, NGOs like Human Rights Watch worked to parlay the heightened attention to the proliferation of arms and its impact on civilians into concerted state action. These NGOs joined forces with so-called like-minded states to advocate a broad array of measures: responsible and ethical arms export policies, a crack-down on illicit arms trafficking, a reform of arms embargo regimes, greater transparency in the arms trade, and others (see below). Confronted by the daily devastation of armed violence, and encouraged by the historic success of a broadbased effort to ban antipersonnel landmines, these states and NGOs thus took on the important challenge of securing a safer future for civilians across the globe by tackling the uncontrolled proliferation of other weapons as well.
In 1999 the global movement to eradicate antipersonnel (AP) landmines continued to make tremendous progress, though there were several high profile instances of continued use of AP mines. The 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Antipersonnel Mines, and On Their Destruction (the Mine Ban Treaty) formally entered into force on March 1, 1999, thereby becoming binding international law more quickly than any major treaty in history. Between November 1998 and October 1999, the number of nations ratifying the treaty grew from forty-nine to eighty-seven. Two new countries signed the treaty-Ukraine, with the world's fourth largest stockpile of AP mines, and Lithuania, the first Baltic nation-bringing the total to 135 signatories at this writing. The treaty imposed a comprehensive ban on AP mines, destruction of stockpiled mines within four years, and destruction of mines already in the ground within ten years.
The First Meeting of States Parties to the treaty was held in Mozambique in May 1999 in order to review progress and problems in the treaty's implementation. This was the first of the annual meetings called for by the treaty, and the fact that it occurred so quickly was an indication of the commitment of many governments on this issue. At the meeting, governments agreed to establish a program of "intersessional" work, aimed at ensuring rapid and effective implementation. Five new Standing Committees of Experts (Mine Clearance, Victim Assistance, Stockpile Destruction, Technologies, and General Status of the Convention) were set to meet several times a year, with extensive NGO participation in the process.
For the third straight year, governments were unsuccessful in placing antipersonnel landmines on the agenda of the Conference on Disarmament, an arms control forum in Geneva. The United States was a major proponent, pushing for talks on a global mine transfer ban. Among those in opposition were pro-ban governments that viewed the effort as a distraction from the Mine Ban Treaty, and governments in the developing world that saw it as an attempt to avoid discussions on nuclear disarmament.
Parties to the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) met in May and December to review progress on implementation of the 1996 Revised Protocol II on landmines. The protocol entered into force in December 1998 with its twentieth ratification. The U.S. Senate ratified it on May 20, 1999. The Revised Protocol, a set of complicated restrictions on certain types of use of certain types of antipersonnel mines, was criticized by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and others as weak and ineffective. A formal review conference of the entire CCW was scheduled for 2001, with preparatory meetings in 2000.
The ICBL, recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, continued to grow-encompassing over 1,400 NGOs in more than ninety countries-and expand its activities. Perhaps most notable was the development of the ICBL's Landmine Monitor program. This unprecedented initiative marked the first time that civil society groups sought in a systematic and coordinated way to monitor a disarmamentor humanitarian law treaty. The objective was to collect information on, and evaluate the progress of, the international community in implementing the ban treaty and alleviating the global mine crisis. In late 1998 and 1999 the Landmine Monitor established a reporting network of local researchers in more than eighty countries, began setting up a central database, and researched and produced its first annual report. At the First Meeting of States Parties the ICBL released the 1,100-page Landmine Monitor Report 1999: Toward a Mine-Free World , with information on every country of the world with respect to mine use, production, stockpiling, trade, demining, and aid to victims.
The report found that since the December 1997 signing of the Mine Ban Treaty great progress had been made in eradicating the antipersonnel mine: use appeared to be on the wane, trade had stopped nearly completely, production was very significantly reduced, more than twelve million stockpiled mines had been destroyed, funding for demining and victim assistance programs had increased, and the number of mine victims in some of the most affected nations had fallen. However, it also noted that three treaty signatories had used mines after signing-Angola, Guinea-Bissau, and Senegal. In addition, during 1999 Yugoslav and Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) forces used mines extensively in their conflict, Russia dropped mines on opposition forces in Dagestan, and mine use was also alleged in the India-Pakistan conflict, among others.
In 1999 the ICBL decided to target especially the United States, the former Soviet republics, and the Middle East/North Africa region. As part of its effort to get all governments to sign and ratify the Mine Ban Treaty, the ICBL hosted or co-hosted with governments a number of regional conferences (in Mexico, Tunisia, Lebanon, South Africa, Indonesia, Kenya, Croatia, and Georgia), as well as national conferences or workshops (in India, South Korea, Nigeria, Belarus, and elsewhere). In addition, the ICBL undertook advocacy missions to Georgia, Egypt, Nicaragua, Honduras, Kosovo, and elsewhere, and participated extensively in the Hague Appeal for Peace in May.
As of October 1999, 126 states had ratified the 1993 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons, and on Their Destruction (the Chemical Weapons Convention, CWC). Forty-four states that had signed the treaty still had not ratified. Nine states parties to the CWC (China, France, India, Iran, Japan, Russia, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States) had declared past or present chemical weapon production facilities, which were scheduled to be destroyed or converted to civilian use. As of October, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the organ that monitored compliance with the CWC, had conducted 536 inspections at 278 sites in twenty-nine states parties.
Two years after the CWC's entry into force, thirty-two states parties had yet to submit their initial declarations, while the declarations of a significant number of other states parties remained incomplete. The United States also remained technically noncompliant, as it had failed to submit its initial chemical industry declaration.
Another CWC requirement, the start of the destruction of a state party's chemical weapon stockpile within two years after the treaty's entry into force, had also met with varied success by October 1999. By the end of 1999, the United States was scheduled to have destroyed an estimated 22 percent of its chemical weapons stockpile. Russia, on the other hand, with a reported stockpile of 40,000 tons of chemical agent, was hampered by a lack of funds and had not begun the destruction process.
Despite continued progress in international efforts to prohibit and eliminate chemical and biological weapons, there was at least one notable setback. In December 1998, following a five-day bombing campaign by the United States and United Kingdom against Iraq ostensibly to force the latter's compliance with United Nations weapons inspections, the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) charged with dismantling Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program was expelled from the country. By October 1999, the commission still had not been allowed to return, even with an amended mandate. The year also saw reports of alleged chemical agent use in Kosovo, Sudan, and Turkey. None was formally investigated.
Worldwide military spending continued to decline from an all-time high in 1987. In 1998-the most recent year for which figures were available in October 1999-worldwide spending on military forces was U.S.$745 billion ($700 billion in constant 1995 U.S. dollars), according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Much of this long-term decline could be attributed to reduced military spending by the members of the two major cold war alliances, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the former Warsaw Pact.
Following the end of the cold war and the tenuous equilibrium it represented, the West grabbed the lion's share of the international arms market. In 1998 the United States ranked as the world's largest supplier of arms for the eighth consecutive year. According to the Congressional Research Service, the United States delivered more than $10.5 billion in arms that year, or 35 percent of worldwide arms deliveries. France ranked second and the United Kingdom third, with $6.5 billion and $5.3 billion in arms deliveries respectively. Combined, these three states supplied 74.9 percent of all arms delivered worldwide.
While a total of $29.8 billion in arms were delivered in 1998, another $22.98 billion worth of agreements for future arms deliveries were negotiated. Again the United States ranked first, negotiating $7.1 billion in new arms transfer agreements. Germany ranked second with $5.5 billion (up from $600 million in 1997), and France third with $3 billion. Many of these weapons went to volatile regions in the Middle East and Asia.
The Dumping of Weapons, War, and Violations of Human Rights
The sale of weapons continued to fuel armed conflicts around the globe. As of this writing, in 1999 there were twenty-eight major armed confrontations. Of these, twenty-five were internal, pitting the government against organized groups from among its population. These conflicts caused untold hardship on civilians, siphoned off scarce social and economic resources for weapons purchases, and frequently resulted in massive violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Some of these wars, most notably in Afghanistan, Angola, Colombia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and Sudan, have dragged on for years, far removed from the public eye beyond their borders.
The year 1999 showed again that the proliferation of conventional weapons, financed by cash, precious stones and metals, and narcotics, further prolonged these wars and made them more lethal. This was especially true for small arms and light weapons (assault rifles, machine guns, pistols, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, landmines, small mortars, etc.)-the class of weapons that can be carried by a person,sometimes even a child. The demand for hard cash resulting from the collapse of economies in eastern Europe led to a further hemorrhaging of arms inventories available for sale. The resulting flood of old Soviet-era weaponry and ammunition onto the world market continued to drive down prices, permitting even some of the poorest countries in the world, as well as some rebel forces, to arm themselves to the teeth-even if the quality of the military equipment thus obtained often left much to be desired.
Plagued by armed conflict, Africa in particular continued to be a primary customer to a global arms market glutted with surplus weapons and ammunition. Prices for arms plummeted to the extent that in some parts of Africa AK-47 (Kalashnikov) assault rifles were selling for as little as $6. Arms traffickers-dealing openly and legally or, just as often, slipping across borders and breaking laws-continued to amass huge profits from the trade.
Mechanisms of Arms Control
In 1999 the United Nations Register of Conventional Weapons was in its seventh year of operation. Though voluntary, the register was an important international transparency and confidence-building mechanism. In 1998 a total of ninety-seven states submitted data on imports and exports of major conventional weapons for the previous year. This was a significant increase from ninety in 1997 and eighty-two when the registry was inaugurated in 1992. In general, the level of detail of the submissions improved, with most of the major arms exporters who participated in the registry providing information on the type and model of weapons exported and imported.
Efforts to expand the register made no headway in 1999, but a U.N. Group of Experts on the Register was expected to convene in the year 2000. This group was tasked to examine suggestions to expand the register by adding more categories of weapons and including annual submissions on holdings and procurement.
On small arms and light weapons-a category of weapons excluded from the register-a U.N. panel of twenty-three experts issued its second report in 1999, observing that virtually every part of the U.N. system had had to cope with the consequences of armed conflicts directly associated with the wide availability and use of these weapons. The report noted that about 500 million small arms and light weapons remained in circulation, and that an estimated 40 percent of the global trade in this class of weapons was illegal. In an important step forward from its first report in 1997, which was devoted almost entirely to the activities of non-state actors, the panel this time elaborated on the need for governments to exercise "utmost restraint" in the transfer of small arms and ammunition. It also reiterated its call for a conference in the year 2001 which, in the words of the U.N. undersecretary-general for disarmament affairs, should set out to produce either a politically-binding declaration or a legally-binding global convention.
In 1998 and 1999, the U.N. sought to coordinate the work of its various agencies concerning small arms by creating the Coordinating Action on Small Arms interagency group (CASA) in the office of the U.N. undersecretary-general for disarmament affairs, and the Reference Group on Small Arms (RGSA) in Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In September 1999, under the presidency of the Netherlands, the U.N. Security Council held its first-ever ministerial meeting on small arms, noting that the "destabilizing accumulation of small arms has contributed to the intensity and duration of armed conflicts," and calling, inter alia, for "effective national regulations and controls on small arms transfers," the "highest degree of responsibility" on the part of governments of arms-exporting countries, the "effective implementation of arms embargoes," and "measures to discourage arms flows to countries or regions engaged in or emerging from armed conflicts."
Shortly after European Union members adopted a code of conduct for arms exports in June 1998, several non-E.U. countries associated with the E.U. declared their intent to adhere to the code's principles on a voluntary basis. By the end of 1998, thirteen states had made such a declaration, mostly members of the former Warsaw Pact. The code's reach did not remain limited to Europe. In December 1998 Canada, too, made a pledge to adhere to the code, and in May 1999 the United States expressed its intent to explore ways to associate itself with the code.
The code's adoption prompted the Netherlands and Germany to join Belgium, Italy, Sweden, and the U.K. in making public their annual reports on arms exports. The E.U. Council of Ministers appeared less concerned with the need for transparency, as it continued to resist calls by NGOs and parliamentarians to obtain information about the consolidated E.U. arms export report mandated by the code. A dent in this wall of confidentiality was made by Heidi Hautala, a Green Party member from Finland, when the European Court ruled in July she could see a document on the implementation of the E.U.'s eight criteria governing arms exports which form the basis for the code. Though limited to a single document, Hautala's success constituted a victory for the advocates of transparent arms transfers, setting an important precedent and introducing a useful method of compelling E.U. institutions to submit to the rigors of public scrutiny. Giving in to pressure for more transparency, in October the E.U. published its consolidated report on the code's annual review process. While the information on specific exports, licences issued, and notifications of denial was compiled in broad aggregates, the report did afford the opportunity to the public for the first time to identify areas in which the code needed to be strengthened.
Despite these positive developments, the code's main flaw, its nonbinding nature, remained unaddressed, even though some E.U. officials expressed the hope that the E.U.'s new Common Foreign and Security Policy under the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty would provide a legal framework for the code. E.U. officials and nongovernmental observers alike shared the view that, in the interim, the code was not a mere gentlemen's agreement and that E.U. members had largely abided by its provisions and sought ways to ameliorate these in the process. They pointed out, for example, that, even in its infancy, the implementation of the E.U. code of conduct had triggered two important developments. One, members' views began to converge on the need to attach a common control list of military, security, and police equipment to the code. And furthermore, by mid-1999, dozens of notifications of arms export denials had been circulated among member states in compliance with the code's requirement that a member state inform other members of any rejection of a request for a sale.
The precise obligations of E.U. associated countries vis-a-vis the code received scant attention in 1999. Excluded from the code's operative provisions of information sharing and reporting, the associated countries pledged, at a minimum, to respect the code's criteria. Chief among these was the denial of an arms transfer in the case of a clear risk that the weapons might be used in human rights abuses or to exacerbate regional conflicts, when the transaction would infringe an international agreement, such as an arms embargo, or when a shipment might be retransferred to an unauthorized third party. Flying in the face of these criteria was the decision of Poland in 1999 to sell fifty Soviet-era T54/55 tanks to Yemen, despite Yemen's reputation for not honoring its end-user commitments and U.S. warnings that the hardware was likely to be diverted to Sudan, a country under an E.U. arms embargo since 1994. Poland's action came under fire from the U.S. when it became clear that a first shipment of twenty tanks had disappeared en route to Yemen in April, and it was forced to cancel the sale. Given the risk the tanks might be diverted, Poland was in clear violation of its declared commitment to the E.U. code. In September, the Czech Republic, another E.U. associated country, confirmed the planned sale of ninety-seven T54/55 tanks "to Yemen."
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
In response to pressure from NGOs, NATO in 1998-1999 gave signs of waking up to the threat posed by small arms, particularly in the context of the Alliance's role in peacekeeping operations. In December 1998 NATO's Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC)-which combines NATO allies and members of the former Warsaw Pact-pledged to include measures pertaining to small arms and light weapons in its Action Plan for 1998-2000. When EAPC representatives subsequently met in Brussels in March to discuss small arms proliferation, Canada, with help from the U.S. and Norway, secured an agreement to create a working group on small arms along the lines of the EAPC's landmines working group. The new working group held its first meeting in June when it developed a planning document centered around issues such as security of weapons stockpiles (particularly in the former East Bloc) and tightening of export controls. NATO's tardy recognition of the problems posed by the proliferation and misuse of small arms was reflected in the absence of this topic in the discussion of NATO's new security concept that took place in connection with the April summit of the Alliance in Washington.
Other Regional Mechanisms
The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies had thirty-three members as of this writing in 1999. The non-binding arrangement was established to contribute to regional and international security and stability "by promoting transparency and greater responsibility among participating members in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies." In 1999 its main weakness continued to be its non-binding nature. Although participating states pledged, in a public statement on December 3, 1998, to exercise "maximum restraint when considering licenses for the export of arms-in particular to regions in conflict," some continued to allow deliveries of weapons to countries and regions at war, for example, Bulgaria to Eritrea, Romania to West Africa, and Russia to Angola.
The 1999 Inter-American Convention on Transparency in Conventional Weapons Acquisition was opened for signature on June 7. Nineteen countries in the Americas signed, and the convention was set to enter into force thirty days after the sixth instrument of ratification was deposited. By October 1999, no state had ratified the convention. The convention imposed two legal requirements on states parties. One, each state party was required to provide an annual report to the general secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) of imports and exports of conventional weapons covered by the U.N. register. (A proposal to include small arms and light weapons was not incorporated in the treaty.) Two, each state party was required to notify the OAS general secretariat of its acquisition of major arms covered by the U.N. register, whether through importation or national production, within ninety days of incorporating these weapons into the inventory of their armed forces. States parties not acquiring any weapons covered in the treaty were required to file a "nil report." The treaty did not enjoin states parties to make these declarations public.
The treaty complemented the 1997 Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacture of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials (known as the OAS Convention on Arms Trafficking). This convention, which entered into force on September 1, 1998, counted thirty-two signatures and nine ratifications in October 1999. Although the treaty was yet to be ratified by the majority of OAS member states and only a few states had modified their laws to comply with the convention, it already led to greater cooperation among law enforcement agencies in the Americas. The convention also served as a model for negotiations on an international convention on arms trafficking.
On November 1, 1998, at the initiative of the government of Mali, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announced a three-year moratorium on the import, export, and manufacture of light weapons in the region. Member states included Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, CLte d'Ivoire, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. Although, it was recognized that without a strong monitoring and policing system the moratorium would be impossible to uphold, the move had great symbolic importance, as it marked the first moratorium of its kind, was initiated by the government of a small and poor country in Africa that had just emerged from an internal war in a region beset by similar armed conflicts, and included an effort to destroy weapons left over after the war.
As of October 1999 the U.N. maintained mandatory arms embargoes against five states (Iraq, Liberia, Libya, Somalia, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) and three nongovernmental entities (rebel forces in Angola, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone). The international community's ever-increasing recourse to sanctions in the 1990s again became the focus of sharp criticism in 1999 for their lack of effectiveness. Not only were embargoes unaccompanied by implementation and monitoring mechanisms, but critics also pointed out that embargoes threatened to push underground a trade normally conducted in the open, and thereby give free rein to private actors accountable to no one. Against this background, a debate on the reform of sanctions regimes gathered pace, putting pressure on the U.N. to carry out a comprehensive review of sanctions, including arms embargoes.
One new mechanism that was seen as a possible model for ensuring the implementation of an arms embargo was the creation of ad hoc commissions to monitor arms flows in violation of such embargoes. The precedent was the International Commission of Inquiry (Rwanda), known generally as UNICOI. In September 1998 the Security Council had acknowledged the innovative role played by UNICOI indocumenting violations of the arms embargo on Rwandan rebels. The council cited the commission's work as an example of "a useful means for strengthening the effectiveness" of a U.N. ban. Originally created by the Security Council in September 1995, UNICOI was not specifically assigned the task of implementing the Rwanda arms embargo, but it was given greater investigative powers than the passive Rwanda sanctions committee. Making the best of its narrow terms of reference, limited powers of enforcement, and lack of resources and staff, UNICOI produced a series of useful reports that documented specific embargo violations. Its final report in November 1998 described the ongoing fund-raising efforts by Rwandan rebel leaders and financiers in Kenya, continued arms flows from southern and central Africa into the Great Lakes region, and the alarming military cooperation between the Rwandan g6nocidaires and the governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Zimbabwe, and Sudan, as well as Burundian rebels.
In January 1999, the president of the Security Council took a further step by issuing a "Note on the Work of the Sanctions Committees." It reaffirmed the commitment of all council members to a series of reforms aimed at improving the implementation of sanctions. Building on this development and at the suggestion of Canada, the president of the sanctions committee on Angola, the council established two expert panels to collect information on and investigate reports of sanctions violations, and identify parties responsible for such violations. The panels were given a six-month mandate during which visits to "countries concerned" were scheduled. Two of the persons chosen to serve on these panels were veterans of UNICOI whose expertise was expected to enhance the institutional memory of sanctions mechanisms.
Ending Arms Transfers to Abusive End-Users
The dangers of small-arms proliferation and misuse became more and more apparent in 1998 and 1999 when war returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo, East Timor, Sierra Leone, and Angola, and a new armed conflict broke out in Kosovo. In all of these wars outside parties were drawn in, while untrained and undisciplined fighters were enlisted. This threatened a regionalization of these conflicts and provoked massive population displacement and violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. And all of these wars were fed by a destabilizing influx of weapons.
Small Arms Campaign
Recognizing the role of arms imports in fanning the flames and encouraging abusive conduct, nongovernmental organizations renewed their energies to address the uncontrolled proliferation of small arms and light weapons. In May two hundred NGOs launched the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) on the occasion of The Hague Appeal for Peace, an event that attracted thousands of participants from all over the world. IANSA saw its primary aim as curbing the proliferation and misuse of small arms. Organizers lit a bonfire of deactivated guns in the main square of The Hague to inaugurate the campaign, which was saluted, among others, by Mary Robinson, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Olara Otunno, the U.N. secretary-general's special representative for children in armed conflict, and Jos6 Ramos-Horta, the East-Timorese Nobel laureate. In less than a year since IANSA was conceived at an August 1998 meeting of thirty-three NGO representatives in Toronto, a flurry of initiatives had quickened the pace of international action. To build on this momentum, IANSA elected a facilitation committee to run the network, opened a secretariat in London, and set up a web site ( www.iansa.org). Declaring a concern for the human rights consequences of arms proliferation as one of the campaign's crucial underpinnings, IANSA identified policy vehicles to promote the campaign's objectives at local, national, and international fora, and worked on developing early-warning capabilities emanating from its regional nodes.
United States Policy
In 1999, the United States continued to be one of the problem countries with respect to banning antipersonnel mines, despite its ongoing rhetoric about its leadership on the issue. There was no change in the policy announced by the administration in May 1998 that the U.S. would join the Mine Ban Treaty only in 2006, and even then only if the Pentagon has been successful in its search for alternatives to mines. The U.S. and Turkey were the only NATO member states
not to have signed the treaty; the U.S. and Cuba were the only non-signatories in the western hemisphere. On the positive side, the U.S. continued to increase its funding for mine clearance and victim assistance programs, and remained the largest donor to such mine action activities globally. In addition to the U.S.'s refusal to sign the treaty immediately, other disturbing developments in 1999 included:
P The U.S. reserved the right to use antipersonnel mines in the Kosovo conflict (though it never did), even as it strongly criticized Serb forces for using them.
P The Pentagon requested $48 million for the new RADAM mine system that would contain not only legal antitank mines, but also antipersonnel mines banned under the treaty. Congress reduced the amount to $8 million.
P It became increasingly clear from officials' comments that the Pentagon would be unlikely to meet the 2006 deadline for developing alternatives to mines.
P The U.S. pressed its allies, including ban treaty signatories, to allow it to use antipersonnel mines in joint operations (such as Kosovo), to continue stockpiling U.S. mines on their territory, and to permit the U.S. to transport mines through their territory-all of which are against the spirit, and arguably the letter, of the Mine Ban Treaty.
P The U.S. refused to ban future production of antipersonnel mines. The U.S. was one of only sixteen past mine producers that had yet to prohibit manufacture.
P After completing destruction of more than 3 million mines in 1998, the U.S. continued to stockpile 11.3 million antipersonnel mines, the fourth largest such arsenal in the world. This included 1.2 million long-lasting "dumb" mines for use in case of conflict on the Korean peninsula. The U.S.
had antipersonnel mines stored in at least ten foreign countries, including seven treaty signatories.
Chemical and Biological Weapons
In 1999 the United States had still not fulfilled all its obligations under the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, including the required declaration of its chemical industry production. Implementing legislation, completed in October 1998, was held up first in Congress and then by bureaucratic jockeying between the Departments of State and Commerce over which agency would be responsible for implementing the CWC's provisions. On June 25 President Clinton finally signed an executive order designating the Department of State the agency responsible for implementing the convention.
In addition to failing to live up to its reporting commitments, the United States also continued to undermine the CWC by insisting that samples collected in the course of inspections in the U.S. could not be taken out of the country, and by granting the right of a presidential veto in case of a challenge inspection. Both these conditions, imposed by the U.S. Senate when it ratified the CWC in 1996, were in direct contravention of the convention.
The United States also failed to take a leading role in negotiations over a verification protocol to the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. Progress on the protocol's "rolling text" was limited, and the U.S. negotiating team was unable to reach a detailed position from which to negotiate.
Conventional Weapons and Military Training
In 1999 U.S. law made a number of states and nonstate actors ineligible to import weapons from the U.S., either because of the existence of a U.N. arms embargo, protracted warfare, a state's sponsorship of what the U.S. terms "terrorist" activity, or another foreign policy consideration. But while the Clinton administration was quick to slap Poland's wrist when Poland sold tanks ostensibly to Yemen but in all likelihood to Sudan in April (see above), when it came to its own foreign policy objectives it resisted adopting principles by which it would itself be bound, such as those contained in the proposed international code of conduct on arms transfers. After 1993 Congress made various unsuccessful attempts to pass a U.S. code of conduct with strong human rights provisions. The year 1999 was no exception.
As of October two code of conduct initiatives were pending in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate. The House initiatives centered around the reintroduction by Representative Cynthia McKinney (the original code's champion) of a code of conduct bill which had received NGO support, and a separate piece of legislation offered as an amendment to the State Department Authorization Act. This latter version stemmed from a compromise between Representatives McKinney and Sam Gejdenson. The amendment accommodated McKinney's support for arms transfers to be authorized only to governments that promote democracy, respect human rights, are not engaged in armed aggression, and participate in the U.N. Register for Conventional Arms. It also absorbed Gejdenson's preference for a multilateral regime (as opposed to U.S. unilateral self-restraint) by requiring the U.S. to begin negotiations toward a code of conduct in the context of the Wassenaar Arrangement of arms-producing countries. An amendment similar to the McKinney-Gejdenson bill was offered by Senator John Kerry in the Senate.
But even the timid and effectively toothless nature of these amendments did not prevent the administration from dumping cold water on Congress. The administration reacted to the McKinney-Gejdenson amendment by stating that in its view this law would "significantly hinder" U.S. efforts to improve the Wassenaar Arrangement (see above) while challenging "the President's foreign affairs negotiating authority." At the same time, administration officials were exploring ways in which the U.S. could associate itself with the (non-binding) E.U. code.
In the U.S., a dialogue about how to control the spread of small arms continued between an interagency group of U.S. officials and a variety of U.S.-based NGOs. Although the U.S. administration's focus had been on illicit arms transfers, NGO pressure to take a broader view and also address government responsibilities yielded a new U.S. initiative on small arms. This initiative identified as U.S. foreign policy priorities a moratorium on small-arms sales to areas of violent conflict, the reform of arms embargo regimes, measures to enhance the responsible disposal of stockpiled weapons, and increased transparency in arms transfers. In a series of speeches, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright emphasized the U.S. commitment to tackling the problem of small-arms proliferation, for example by working with the United Nations and African leaders "to find ways to strengthen the enforcement of arms embargoes." In September, during the U.N. Security Council's historic debate on small arms, Albright declared that the U.S. would "refrain from selling arms to regions of conflict not already covered by arms embargoes."
The Leahy Amendment, a piece of legislation named after Senator Patrick Leahy, continued to have a positive impact on U.S. foreign policy. It prohibited the transfer of U.S. security assistance to foreign security units when there was credible evidence these units were involved in, or had committed, human rights violations. Thanks to this legislation, a transfer of armored personnel carriers to the Turkish Anti-Terror and Anti-Riot Police-widely implicated in human rights violations-was stopped in October 1998. In Colombia, Mexico, and other countries that received U.S. security assistance, U.S. embassy personnel were instructed to monitor and investigate units for compliance with the amendment.
In June the U.S. Departments of State and Defense published their respective sections of the third annual "Section 655" report, detailing more than $40 billion worth of U.S. arms shipments and export licenses approved to 165 countries in fiscal year 1998. That year the Pentagon delivered, under the Foreign Military Sales Program, $13.9 billion worth of arms and training. The U.S. State Department also approved licenses for $26.4 billion worth of arms exports licenses and manufacturing agreements. These licenses were for four years and, as is typical with such agreements, not all were expected to be fulfilled. According to the report, in fiscal year 1998 the U.S. government exported or authorized export licenses to a number of countries involved in internal armed conflicts, including $2.1 billion to Turkey, $185 million to Mexico, and $176 million to Colombia. The report constituted an important step forward in efforts to press for greater U.S. transparency inforeign policy. The Department of State, embracing this move to greater openness, made its portion of the Section 655 Report (concerning approved licenses) available to the public. The Department of Defense's portion (government to government sales) remained classified "For Official Use Only."
In related matters, the United States was a signatory to, and a key participant in the negotiation of, the 1999 Inter-American Convention on Transparency in Conventional Weapons Acquisition. The treaty was designed to greatly aid transparency and confidence building in the western hemisphere. Ratification of the treaty by the U.S. Senate was expected to take some time. In 1999 the United States had yet to ratify the 1997 Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacture of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials. The treaty was held hostage by Senator Jesse Helms (Republican-North Carolina), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who refused to work on this and other treaties until his committee first voted on the 1997 amendments to the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Neither treaty had even been submitted to the Senate by the Clinton administration by October.
The Work of Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch continued to play a leadership role in the ICBL throughout 1999. As a co-founder of the ICBL, Human Rights Watch sat on the fourteen-member Coordination Committee, as well as the four-member Advisory Committee that oversaw daily activities, and chaired the ICBL Treaty Working Group, which was charged with promoting the universalization and ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty. It also headed the official ICBL delegation to the treaty's First Meeting of States Parties in Mozambique in May. In the United States, Human Rights Watch was an active member of the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines, and served as the co-chair of its Government Task Force.
Perhaps most notable, Human Rights Watch was the lead organization in developing, coordinating and implementing the ICBL's Landmine Monitor, the monitoring and reporting system for the treaty and the mine crisis more generally. Human Rights Watch was the overall coordinator for the production of the 1,100-page Landmine Monitor Report 1999 , edited the full report, and was also responsible for its formatting, printing, and distribution. In addition, Human Rights Watch was the regional research coordinator for Middle East/North Africa and Central Asia work, and the thematic coordinator for ban policy (use, production, trade, and stockpiling).
Human Rights Watch participated in all the major conferences on landmines in 1999 aimed at universalization, ratification, and monitoring of the treaty. We attended conferences or undertook advocacy missions in Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, and Tunisia in January, Lebanon in February, Norway and Switzerland in March, Mozambique and the Netherlands in May, Croatia in June, Nigeria and Switzerland in September, and the United Arab Emirates in October. Human Rights Watch also conducted a research mission in Kosovo in September to investigate the landmines situation. In addition, Human Rights Watch participated in many landmine meetings in the United States, spoke in a host of different fora, including the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the U.S. Department of Defense, universities, and research institutions, and released a continuing series of landmine publications in 1999 (see below).
Banning Other Weapons
In late 1998 Human Rights Watch concluded a two-year investigation of allegations that Serb forces had attacked Bosniaks fleeing the U.N. "safe area" of Srebrenica with a chemical agent during the war in Bosnia and Hercegovina in July 1995. Short of finding conclusive evidence that a chemical agent was used, Human Rights Watch called for a broader international investigation of the allegations in order to bring justice to the victims, strengthen international controls over the proliferation of chemical weapons, and prevent a dangerous arms race in the Balkans. The media attention accorded to the release of the findings in November 1998 set the stage for a vigorous advocacy campaign, including meetings with officials of governments of the Netherlands and Bosnia and Hercegovina, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), among others.
Human Rights Watch organized a panel on chemical and biological weapons as part of the Hague Appeal for Peace in the Netherlands. The panel was hosted by the OPCW and addressed the threat posed by states' nonadherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention (especially the U.S.), new allegations of chemical weapons use, and the need for governments, the OPCW, and NGOs like Human Rights Watch to cooperate in universalizing the treaty and ensuring its implementation and enforcement.
In March, April, and May, Human Rights Watch monitored the conduct of NATO forces during their air bombardment of targets in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In May we called on NATO to halt the use of cluster bombs, arguing that the high failure rate of U.S. and U.K. cluster munitions during the war (5 percent was a conservative estimate) caused large target areas to be littered with unexploded submunitions which in effect became antipersonnel landmines-indiscriminate killers unable to distinguish between combatants and civilians and a lingering threat to the population. Following a couple of well-publicized incidents in which cluster bombs hit civilian areas in Yugoslav towns, the White House restricted the further use of these weapons during the war, which ended shortly afterwards. Human Rights Watch estimated, using the conservative 5-percent failure rate, that the 1,100 cluster bombs dropped by U.S. and U.K. aircraft had left 11,000 unexploded bomblets in Yugoslavia. The results of a broader investigation of the conduct of the air war, carried out in July and August, were still being analyzed in late October.
Curbing Arms Transfers to Abusive End-Users
In April Human Rights Watch completed research on Bulgaria, lambasting the government for having earned a reputation as an anything-goes weapons bazaar where Kalashnikov assault rifles, mortars, antitank mines, ammunition, and other items were available for a price-no matter who the buyers were or how they might use the deadly wares. Despite some positive steps in 1999, Bulgaria's arms business continued to be characterized by weak arms export laws, poor regulatory enforcement, and a glaring lack of accountability. Bulgaria had failed to introduce human rights considerations into arms trade law, to ensure that arms approved for export or transport out of Bulgaria were not diverted to unauthorized end users, and to prosecute anyone for violating arms trade laws. In ongoing advocacy Human Rights Watch calledon the Bulgarian government to cease transfers of weapons to military forces in Africa and elsewhere that were guilty of gross violations of human rights, and pressed multilateral institutions such as NATO and the European Union to make membership conditional on the enactment and enforcement of adequate arms trade controls.
In December 1998, Human Rights Watch took up NATO Secretary General Javier Solana's suggestion to write to NATO allies and partners in order to solicit information about their export control regimes and measures regarding the security of their stockpiles. A number of interesting answers were received, and research and advocacy on this issue continued throughout the year, with further communications with governments. In March the ambassadors of NATO's Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council agreed on the creation of a working group on small arms. In its first meeting in June the group addressed some of the concerns expressed by Human Rights Watch with NATO delegations, notably regarding the security of surplus weapons stockpiles, the lack of transparency in the inventories of these stockpiles, and wide variations in NATO allies' and partners' arms export controls. Ahead of the NATO summit in April, Human Rights Watch supplied information to NATO delegations, E.U. officials, and the attending press showing that former Warsaw Pact conventional weaponry, particularly small arms, continued to end up in the hands of human rights abusers around the world. Human Rights Watch expressed concern that the arms trade was bound to increase as the modernization of the arsenals of NATO's new allies and partners continued to free up huge amounts of newly obsolete arms and ammunition.
In 1999 Human Rights Watch was advocating vigorously for a thorough reform of arms embargo regimes. After a coalition of U.S.-based NGOs included proposals for such a reform in a list of ten policy points on small arms presented to the Clinton administration in September 1998, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright addressed the need for arms embargo reform in speeches dealing with small arms proliferation in Africa. In December 1998, Human Rights Watch presented its own ideas at a "Symposium on Targeted Sanctions" in New York, and reinforced the need for arms embargo reform at a press briefing organized by the Dutch foreign minister and IANSA following the first-ever U.N. Security Council ministerial meeting on small arms in September 1999.
Human Rights Watch played an important role in engaging the U.S. administration in consultations regarding the "U.S. Initiative on Small Arms." Regular meetings on this topic between NGOs and the U.S. administration were held throughout 1999. At the instigation of Human Rights Watch and other NGOs, the U.S. addressed the issue of small arms at its bilateral summit with the E.U. in May and started a review of the E.U. Code of Conduct on Arms Exports. Again following pressure from Human Rights Watch and others, the U.S. began pushing-at international fora and with its allies and partners-for a moratorium on arms sales to areas of violent conflict, a reform of arms embargo regimes, and ways to ensure the security of arms stockpiles. To this end, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright declared a U.S. commitment to working with the E.U. to develop principles of restraint and a joint action plan.
Relevan Human Rights Watch Reports:
Chemical Warfare in Bosnia? The Strange Experiences of the Srebrenica Survivors , 11/98.
Bulgaria-Money Talks: Arms Dealing with Human Rights Abusers , 4/99.
Arsenals on the Cheap: NATO Expansion and the Arms Cascade , 4/99.
Landmine Monitor Report 1999: Toward a Mine-Free World , and the Executive Summary: Landmine Monitor Report 1999 , 5/99.
Ticking Time Bombs: NATO's Use of Cluster Munitions in Yugoslavia , 5/99.