7 March 2008The head of the United Nations anti-crime agency today welcomed Thailand’s arrest of Viktor Bout, the infamous weapons smuggler, dubbed the “Merchant of Death,” who is accused of profiting from some of the most violence conflicts around the globe. The head of the United Nations anti-crime agency today welcomed Thailand’s arrest of Viktor Bout, the infamous weapons smuggler, dubbed the “Merchant of Death,” who is accused of profiting from some of the most violence conflicts around the globe. “Let him face justice for the destruction that he has inflicted on humanity,” Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said of Mr. Bout, who was apprehended in Bangkok yesterday. Seen as a kingpin in the global trade of illegal arms, he is believed to have been the inspiration for the character played by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 film “Lord of War.” The vast majority of firearms, one of the planet’s biggest killers, used in conflicts start out legally traded but end up in the illicit market through theft, corruption, poor management and weak transfer control mechanisms. Mr. Costa urged Thailand to ratify the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime to “make it easier to bring criminals of [Mr. Bout’s] ilk to justice, for example through mutual legal assistance and extradition.” He also took the opportunity to appeal to Member States to ratify the UN Firearms Protocol – also known as the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition – and “implement its measures to stop arms dealers from flooding the world with illicit weapons.” According to UNODC, three quarters of the nearly 1 billion guns in circulation worldwide are in the hands of civilians. Every year, 8 million new guns are manufactured, as well as billions of ammunition rounds – enough to kill the world’s population twice over. “The Firearms Protocol – which is a powerful yet forgotten piece of international law – can reduce the threat posed by these weapons,” said the UNODC head. In a related development, the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs will meet next week in Vienna to review progress made on global drug control efforts. One decade ago, the General Assembly committed itself to “eliminating or significantly reducing the illicit cultivation of the coca bush, the cannabis plant and the opium poppy by the year 2008.” The upcoming weeklong meeting – which will be attended by ministers and top anti-narcotics officials from 53 member countries of the Commission, including Bolivia, Colombia and Iran – will assess the effectiveness of measures that have been taken. “The drug control system has succeeded in containing drug use to less than 5 per cent of the adult population of the world,” Mr. Costa said, calling this an “extraordinary” achievement. “However, the problem has not been solved; fundamental objectives of the drug control conventions have not yet been achieved, and some of the targets set ten years ago remain elusive,” he warned. Next week’s meeting will focus on issues such as the impacts of drug trafficking, reducing demand, and alternative development as a key drug control strategy.