Lloyd’s List Reporter
AMNESTY International has for nearly 50 years devoted itself to campaigning for human rights abuses and in favour of compliance with international law.
While its work rarely features in our pages, last week we had occasion to cover a recent Amnesty International report on the role of transport companies in the international arms trade. Three shipping concerns were mentioned by name for involvement in the carriage of weapons and munitions to regimes that are not to everyone’s taste.
In particular, Amnesty highlights the movement of cluster bombs, undoubtedly a particularly nasty example, and points out that such shipments contravene the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions.
The obvious snag in this argument is that the convention does not come into force until August 1 2010, and that the shipments took place in 2008 and 2009. Whatever one’s moral stance on this issue, carriers can hardly be held in breach of an agreement that did not apply at the material times.
At the end of the day, operators are within their rights to handle such cargoes as they are not explicitly prohibited from handling by the relevant authorities. It is the remit of governments to specify what those commodities are.
We are entirely happy to see cluster bombs join that list of banned goods next month. But Amnesty International would have more credibility if it recognised that such strictures cannot be retrospective.