THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK
The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its supplementary Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their parts and components and ammunition are recognized as the main global instrument to fight organized crime and transnational associations. With a worldwide binding scope of application, these instruments target substantially the possibility of harmonization of national laws and procedures beyond borders and among different regions. The protocol also contains a series of preventive measures outlined with the aim to strengthen internal legislation and facilitate international cooperation. Therefore, the implementation of the Firearms Protocol and the UNTOC Convention are acknowledged as an essential order in the fight against the illicit trafficking of firearms.
Other global instruments can be used to supplement the international legal framework on firearms: (i) the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA), adopted at the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects from 9-20 July 2001; (ii) the International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons (ITI) from 2005; and (iii) Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, Adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, Cuba, 27 August to 7 September 1990.
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In Latin America the main legally binding instrument is the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking In Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials (CIFTA), which was adopted on November 1997, entering into force on July 1998. This was the first multilateral treaty designed to prevent, combat, and eradicate illegal transnational trafficking in firearms, ammunition, and explosives (click here for the full text).
In Africa, countries have proven their willingness to cooperate in the fight against the trafficking of illicit firearms by adopting the Bamako Declaration in 2000, which was then followed by a series of additional sub-regional legally binding instruments. Among African Union Member States, the region has further demonstrated its political will by agreeing to implement the United Nations Plan of Action, which has gained substantial advances on the signature, ratification and entry into force of legally binding protocols or conventions on firearms since 2000. Additionally, the Economic Community of West African States adopted in 1998, the first of its kind, a Moratorium on the importation, exportation and manufacture of small arms and light weapons. The Moratorium was extended in 2001 and entered into force in November 2009. In West Africa 14 out of 15 countries are Party to UNOTC, with 7 out the 14 countries having ratified the Firearms Protocol. While in Central Africa 10 out of 11 States are Party to UNTOC with an additional four Party to the Firearms Protocol. Furthermore, the region has implemented its own regional instrument on firearms, the Kinshasa Convention. It is imperative to ensure that both West African and Central African countries find a cohesive strategy in implementing both regional and global instruments to establish domestic legislation that is consistent and compliant with international and regional standards.
Europe has taken great efforts to prevent the illicit trafficking of firearms by adopting various instruments designed to control the illegal arms trade. These decisions and instruments include the Council Directive 91/477/EEC of 18 June 1991 on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons, the 1998 Code of Conduct of Arms Exports, the 2003 Council Common Decision on the Control of Arms Brokering, the 2002 Joint Action and consequently the 2006 EU Strategy to combat illicit accumulation and trafficking in SALW, the two Council Joint Actions, 2008/113/CFSP which supported the International Tracing Instrument, and the 2008/230/CFSP on support for EU activities in order to promote the control of arms exports, and the principles and criteria of the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports among third countries, and lastly the Directive 2008/51/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Directive 91/477/EEC on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons. This last Directive provides the specific requirements for EU Member States to cooperate with the Firearms Protocol provisions, as well as the application of its article 10 on transfers.