UN puts human rights at heart of historic Arms Trade Treaty
(Brussels, 2 April 2013) Today, governments at the United Nations adopted by a wide margin an Arms Trade Treaty that will ban states from transferring conventional weapons to countries when they know the weapons will be used to commit or facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.
“The EU has always been a strong supporter of the Arms Trade Treaty, and EU countries have been key to drafting, negotiating and adopting the treaty,” said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.
“The task now is to ensure the EU and its 27 member states sign, ratify and implement the treaty as soon as possible, and make this a priority in relations with other countries.”
In the UN General Assembly 154 states voted to adopt the treaty just days after Iran, North Korea and Syria, all human rights-abusing countries under some form of UN sanctions, attempted to block it.
The scope of the adopted treaty covers major categories of conventional arms, including small arms and light weapons which proliferate in countries with low-level conflicts, armed violence and huge civilian casualties.
The treaty also obliges all governments to assess the risk of transferring arms, ammunition or components to another country where they could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Where that overriding risk is real and cannot be mitigated, states have agreed that transfers will not proceed.
Amnesty International has played a major role since the 1990s in pushing for robust, legally binding global rules on international arms transfers to stem the flow of arms that fuel atrocities and abuse.
The treaty was adopted after more than six years’ UN deliberations, a process that began in December 2006 when the General Assembly agreed to consult on the feasibility, scope and parameters of a treaty.
The treaty will be opened for signature and ratification on 3 June at the UN General Assembly and will take effect shortly after it has been ratified by 50 countries.
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