Activists gun for tougher rules on arms trade

Article published: Wednesday, July 4th 2012

A Manchester activist demonstrated alongside a tank driven through central London last week to demand tougher controls over the arms trade.

Eamon Rooke, 23, of Wilmslow Road, Manchester, joined the Oxfam and Amnesty International campaign ahead of the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty this week which is intended to address the lack of global regulations.

The goal of the campaign, said Rooke, is to pressure the UK government into pushing for tougher measures on the international sales of arms and ammunition, which are currently unregulated.

Following the decommissioned tank, Rooke explained why he wanted to be involved with the campaign.

“This is such an important issue, there are more international regulations on the sale of bananas and dinosaur bones than there are on the trade of arms and ammunition, these statistics are frightening,” he said.

According to the UN, “Unintended explosions of ammunition depots have affected over 60 countries worldwide”, but with no global framework the sale of arms at best is covered by an “eclectic set of national and regional control measures”.

The armoured vehicle led demonstrators past the Indian, South African and US embassies in a bid to attract international attention to support in the UK for strong action.

It then continued past the Brazilian and Kenyan embassies while activists jogged alongside.

“People in London are very curious why there us a tank driving right through the city, we have found the British public have been really surprised about the comparisons to regulations on other goods,” added Rooke.

Support for the campaign has been rising over the last few months with Oxfam volunteers like Rooke lobbying MPs to convince the UK government of the strength of feeling on this issue.

The treaty will be negotiated at an international conference in New York held from 2 to 27 July.

Sam Cordon

More: News


  1. ‘The goal of the campaign, said Rooke, is to pressure the UK government into pushing for tougher measures on the international sales of arms and ammunition, which are currently unregulated.’


    The international trade in arms is regulated.

    But perhaps not to the extent that Mr Rooke wants.

    The UK arms industry is mainly based in Labour voting areas.

    So if you want to stop the UK arms industry go to those areas and campaign for the closure of the factories.

    Comment by pete on July 4, 2012 at 11:38 pm
  2. Hi Pete

    There are weak, domestic regulations on the sale of arms throughout the world. There aren’t any meaningful international regulations on international sales. For instance, whilst there may be regulations on the sale of artillery (tanks, for example), the sale of parts for that artillery – like new navigation systems, armour and so on – is unregulated.

    In the current Syrian conflict, the artillery being used is old, but Russia (and other nation states) are supplying new parts and ammunition without international regulation, which is allowing the massacre to continue. This is currently perfectly legal, but an arms trade treaty could, at the very least, allow the UN to assess whether or not the sale of those parts will lead to the exacerbation of ongoing conflict, or to serious human rights abuses. Syria’s one example, there are plenty of others closer to home.

    Your cynicism is valid. How robust the treaty will be is anyone’s guess, and Oxfam and Amnesty would prefer no treaty to a weak treaty, but that’s why we’re campaigning, to ensure that its meaningful. Our campaign has moved the UK government from a position of calling us hopelessly idealistic to pro-actively supporting our message. We’ve been campaigning on this issue since 2003, and it has been effective. Visit for more info on its history.

    I couldn’t agree more about campaigning for the closure of domestic arms factories, and would certainly like to see more done on this. But, considering how utterly chaotic the industry is, and how foaming at the mouth the right would be about such a campaign (losing ‘our British jobs’ etc), focusing on international law is a partial, meaningful, first step.

    Comment by Eamon Rooke on July 5, 2012 at 9:49 am

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