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April 15, 1998

The Bahamas government, acceding Wednesday morning to an inter-American convention to ban illegal guns, is reaffirming its determination to rid the country of the scourge brought on by gun-related violence.

Sir Arlington Griffith Butler, the Bahamian ambassador to the OAS, signing for the government, reiterating the importance his country has placed on the Inter-American Convention against the Illegal Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials, says "It is necessary because it provides us with an opportunity to prevent the loss of human life." Ambassador Butler says the convention also sets an example to other regional bodies in the world by being the first to have produced such a convention.

US President Bill Clinton and his Mexican counterpart, Ernesto Zedillo, were both at the Special OAS General Assembly Session last November 14 where the Mexico-led initiative was adopted. At the time, The Bahamas had not completed the necessary paperwork to sign it.

"It is because of the nature of our society that we do not produce firearms," says Sir Arlington, who is also ambassador to the United States, explaining that the treaty gives the region's countries an easier way of exchanging information, "and as a result, we hope to be able to prevent the flow of illicit arms in our society and in all the other societies in the region."

Today's signing makes the Commonwealth of the Bahamas the thirtieth state of the 34 member OAS to sign on to the hemispheric treaty so far. Ambassador Butler says the convention will now protect "one of the greatest human rights--the right to life."

Joining the ambassador was OAS Secretary General CÚsar Gaviria who described the problem of illicit traffic of firearms as "not an isolated problem but one that is related to drug trafficking, terrorism, transnational organized crime and mercenary and other activities." He said by being forthright in a commitment through this important instrument, "we are moving forward in abolishing this persisting problem."

Under the convention, the states also commit to adopting the necessary legislation to define certain acts as criminal offenses. The treaty also relates to extradition issues, among others.

The convention signing took place as Dr. Julio Prado Vallejo, Ecuador's ambassador to the hemispheric body, deposited with the secretary general the instruments his country ratified to become party to Inter-American Convention on Extradition. The Ecuadorian envoy also deposited instruments ratifying the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Of the worldwide trend towards doing away with the death penalty, Ambassador Prado Vallejo says: "by applying the death penalty, a state is escaping its duty to rehabilitate criminals...the state has an very important obligation to find ways of making good citizens of those who have in one way or another breached the social order, incorporating them into national life."

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