For Immediate Release: November 2, 2011
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights first was heartened to hear of today’s conviction of Viktor Bout, which closes the chapter on one of the most notorious enablers of mass atrocities. The verdict was limited to only four counts of conspiracy, but Bout has been linked to some of the world’s deadliest conflicts. His dealings with brutal regimes and other perpetrators have enabled widespread human rights abuses in places such as Angola, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan.
“Bout’s trial highlighted the challenges of using existing tools to target enablers of mass atrocities,” said Human Rights First’s Winny Chen. “He and other arms traffickers operate in international legal vacuums, demonstrating the need for the United States and partners to advance global regulatory methods, such as an Arms Trade Treaty, and to use a more expansive toolbox to disrupt the supply chains behind widespread human rights abuses.”
The trial was limited in scope to Bout’s alleged dealings in 2008. However, Bout has been a person of interest for nearly two decades for a list of activities that have concerned the United States, including violating U.N. sanctions, trafficking arms, and enabling atrocities across Africa. A Commission created by the UN Security Council to monitor arms trafficking affecting Angola also uncovered a transfer by Bout of $14 million in small arms, light weapons, and ammunition from Bulgaria primarily to the DRC and Tanzania from 1997 to 1998. According to U.S. prosecutors, included among Bout’s clients was former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, who is currently before the Special Court for Sierra Leone facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“We are pleased by the verdict today and the knowledge that Bout’s arms trafficking will no longer contribute to the perpetration of some of humanity’s worst crimes,” concluded Chen.
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