Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

How States Facilitate Small Arms Trafficking in Africa: A Theoretical and Juristic Interpretation

Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

How States Facilitate Small Arms Trafficking in Africa: A Theoretical and Juristic Interpretation

Article excerpt

Abstract

Small arms' trafficking is complex and involves a host of actors. As numerous court documents, transcripts, United Nations and NGO reports have revealed, many state institutions play a prominent role in the facilitation of, complicity in, and implicit involvement in black and grey arms trafficking. We suggest that if we are to consider the vast number of actors involved in the trafficking of small arms, the issue of controls is highly problematic, given the extent of limited applicable international legal doctrines, such as joint criminal enterprise, criminal organization, or collective criminality. Furthermore, there are broader political issues that hinder efforts of control as highlighted by the state crime literature, including issues of enforcement, political will and states' positions to hinder the advancement of levels of accountability for their own behaviors. Consequentially, our focus here is not to empirically test the etiological factors of states complicit or implicit involvement in arms trafficking, but instead to move the discussion forward to broader theoretical and juristic issues associated with efforts to control arms trafficking. If the goal is to reduce illegal arms trafficking (and subsequent numbers of civilian deaths) policies and controls must be based, not only on the immediate or apparent actors, the role of states in the facilitation of this type of crime.

Introduction

Small arms trafficking (hereafter arms trafficking) is complex and involves a host of actors ranging from the individual rogue seller and buyer to intermediaries, transnational networks, states, corporate organizations, sometimes with the complicity of third, fourth, even fifth parties that facilitate the movement of arms. As with traditional street crimes such as burglary, a network of complicit actors (e.g., the 'criminal', the fence or the middle man, the pawn shop, and a buyer) is involved (Wright and Decker, 1994). The level of involvement of individuals and organizations, from the implicit to the complicit, varies accordingly to the specific role played in relation to the actual act(s). Although not all sales of small arms are illegal, known as white sales, a vast number are sold through either the grey or black markets: the line between legal and illegal, 'intended' destination, intermediary locations, and final destination, involvement of transnational networks, corporations, and states (buyers, sellers, and those that facilitate the movement through a veneer of legitimacy by providing documentation) reveals a complex system of actors and actions. Black market deals are illegal by the covert nature of the transaction (i.e. the movement of the money and the arms).

Transactions are hidden by concealing weapons through mislabeling, forging of documents, and the laundering of the proceeds obtained through the transaction. This also includes the sale of arms from one country to another when there is an arms embargo placed on either. The grey market refers to those transactions that are not considered illegal, but do not fall within the category of white market dealings. These sales are also covert in nature where governments take risks but minimize the potential dangers (Cragin and Hoffman 2003). For example, although there are violations of arms embargoes directly (black market deals), there are also sales of arms to a non-embargo country (B) with the knowledge that such arms will then be sold to the intended state (A) to bypass the embargo, through the use of proxy individual brokers or insurgency groups. This can also include utilizing existing international networks involving black market organizations and rogue traffickers (United Nations Expert Panel Report on Liberia, October 2001). These networks facilitate transfers originated as legal state-to-state transfers and then divert them into conflict zones (Small Arms Survey, 2006; 2008).

As numerous court documents, transcripts, United Nations Reports, and NGO reports have revealed, many states play a prominent role in the facilitation of, complicity in, and implicitly involved in black and grey arms trafficking. …

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