20 years of UN Firearms Protocol and Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) shed light on way forward
20 years of UN Firearms Protocol and Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) shed light on way forward

Vienna (Austria), 9 August 2021 – As 2021 marks the 20th Anniversary of the UN Firearms Protocol and the Programme of Action (PoA) on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW), UNODC, jointly with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), recently held a high-level side event on the margins of the 7th Biennial Meeting of States on the PoA  (BMS7).

With a focus on the continued importance of the two instruments and their complementarity in today’s evolving scene of small arms and light weapons, the virtual event welcomed over 120 participants from around the world. A panel of experts took stock of previous successes and challenges in the area of small arms and provided key takeaways for the way forward in the framework of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly pinpointed the importance of the Firearms Protocol as “the only international instrument requiring States to criminalize the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components, and ammunition.” She also stressed the importance of UNODC’s Global Firearms Programme (GFP) as the custodian of the Firearms Protocol and its role to support Member States in implementing this instrument, in addition to guidance in terms of legislation, criminal justice responses, and marking, among others. Indeed, in the last decade, the Programme has seen great success, training over 2,700 criminal justice practitioners from Africa and the Middle East, Europe, Central Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

The event’s co-host, ODA Director and Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Thomas Markram, meanwhile referred to the complementarity of the two instruments, both in nature and character, and explained how they represent the “architecture of efforts” to address the nefarious consequences of the most commonly used weapons globally. Mr. Markram shared his perspective on the progress States have made to date, mentioning the vital role played by global, regional, sub-regional actors, including civil society organizations, academia experts, UN entities, and other international organizations, flagging that “arms control is not just an affair of the military and the security institutions.” While efforts have led to progress, there remains a necessity for continued commitment by States and stakeholders to implement small arms control measures overarchingly.

Experts’ discussions focused on three areas, featuring practitioners who shared their experiences with small arms control measures within the context of the two instruments: key achievements over the past 20 years in the fight against illicit small arms trafficking; key remaining challenges in countering their illicit trafficking; and linkages with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including the important role of women, youth, and civil society.

The Chair of the 8th Meeting of the Working Group on Firearms, Amb. Luis Javier Campuzano, spoke on upcoming challenges in countering the illicit trafficking of small arms, expressly the growing use of 3D printing for weapons manufacturing and how that brings about novel challenges for tracing and marking firearms. Mr. Campuzano also raised the alarm on the speedy upsurge of cryptocurrencies as a favored resource of organized criminal groups worldwide, and stressed the importance of recognizing firearms as the most significant enablers of crime. Finally, he recommended a gendered approach to all policies, analyses, and actions relating to the issue of firearms.

Munich condemned by Bavarian Admin Court for discriminating a member of Scientology
Munich condemned by Bavarian Admin Court for discriminating a member of Scientology
The City is now obliged to grant an eBike to a member of this Church.

The written judgment of the Bavarian State Administrative Court of Appeal (file no.  4 B 20.3008) in the case of a Munich Scientologist against the city of Munich is now available. The case dealt with the city E-Mobile Funding Directive, issued for the purpose of environmental protection, and the city´s refusal to provide a grant for the purchase of an E-Bike to the plaintiff, solely by reason of her adherence to Scientology.

The Bavarian State Admin Court condemned the city practice with unmistakable words as an unjustified interference in the religious freedom guarantee of Art. 4 of the German Constitution and as a violation of Art. 3 of the Constitution which prohibits unequal treatment before the law. The court stated:

The exclusion of applicants, who feel bound by the Scientology teachings, from the circle of recipients of grants [for an E-Bike] also constitutes a violation of fundamental rights in a multiple way. It is incompatible with the freedom of religion or philosophy and does not satisfy the equal rights requirements of the Constitution.“

Bavarian State Administrative Court, 2021

As the Federal Supreme Admin Court had judged already in 2005, also the Bavarian State Admin Court confirmed that the plaintiff and generally all members of the Church of Scientology can „in any case claim the fundamental right of Art. 4 sect. (1) of the Constitution.“ Art. 4 sect. (1) of the German Constitution guarantees the inviolability of the freedom of belief or the religious and philosophic denomination. By denial of the requested grant, the City of Munich had violated this in a multiple way.  

The city was not allowed to generally require the revelation of the religious or philosophical conviction and blanketly exclude Scientologists from its funding program for E-Bikes. The court found Measures from public authorities that are aimfully directed against the practice of a freedom right protected by Art. 4 sect. (1) of the Constitution, at any rate constitute indirect interferences with a fundamental right. These prerequisites are fulfilled in the case of the exclusion of Scientology adherents from the funding program of the defendant when connected to their personal belief.“

On the prohibition of unequal treatment practices, the court found that the city´s exclusion practice violates the fundamental equal rights principles of the Constitution. The court stated:Also for reasons of equal treatment, the exclusion of Scientology-members and -adherents from the funding program of the defendant must be considered as illegal. It violates Art. 3 sect. (1) and (3) of the Constitution“, that is to say, it violates the fundamental principle that all people are equal before the law and that they must not be subjected to disadvantages by reason of their belief or religious or philosophical conviction.

The spokesperson of the Church of Scientology of Germany was happy to comment on the judgment:

With the above a German Court for the first time called a spade a spade. We are happy that this discriminatory city practice towards Scientologists was finally „red-carded“ which it had deserved since long. This is a victory for religious freedom for all people who are subject to disadvantages in Germany by reason of their religious belief.“

Last september 2020, Scientology had requested the UN to launch an investigation on Germany for violating religious freedom, and in fact the Special Rapporteur on FORB Ahmed Shaheed, had previously written a letter to the German government inquiring them for such discriminatory practices. While the Scientologists still have some work to do to get their rights respected by German officials, it seems that international exposure and above all, proper abidance to the law and justice system, is paying off.

Photo: Steffen Flor, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons