By Xiaodon Liang and Daryl G. Kimball
After two days of deliberations, a New York jury has convicted Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout on multiple conspiracy charges that could lead to his life imprisonment. Bout was found guilty of conspiring to aid the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist group, providing it with surface-to-air missiles, and conspiring to kill U.S. nationals and officials. A Feb. 8 sentencing has been scheduled by the Southern New York U.S. District Court.
Bout’s lawyer has indicated that his client will take further legal means to challenge the verdict.
A transcript of the meeting in Bangkok at which Bout was arrested in 2008 casts light on many of the tactics employed by arms smugglers in moving both small arms and more complex weapons systems with relative impunity across state borders.
Today’s judgment is a welcome first step toward ending that impunity and achieving justice for the victims of conflicts that Bout’s weapons supply operations helped fuel.
However, Viktor Bout was just a part of the problem posed by the broader international arms trade.
Without strong leadership from the United States, other major arms suppliers, and responsible governments across the globe at next year’s UN meeting to negotiate such a treaty, effective strategies to prevent arms trafficking to dictators, human rights abusers, and conflict zones will remain elusive.