Select this search icon to access the search form

Main menu

Facebook Share

Human Rights and the Arms Trade

    May 28, 2015

    The Honourable Rob Nicholson
    Minister of Foreign Affairs

    May 28, 2015

    Dear Minister Nicholson,

    Over the past several months, Amnesty International has – in letters to the government and in comments in the media – highlighted our serious concerns about the human rights implications of the $15 billion deal reached between London, Ontario-based General Dynamics and the Saudi Arabian government for the sale of potentially hundreds of armored vehicles over the next decade.

    The Canadian government, as you know, has an obligation to carry out a human rights assessment of the deal to ensure that, among other things, “there is no reasonable risk that the good might be used against the civilian population.”  Given the very serious and widespread human rights violations regularly committed by Saudi officials, and given the nature of and potential uses of the vehicles that are the subject of this lucrative deal, a thorough and transparent human rights assessment is urgently required. 

    April 16, 2015

    Governments must ban any further development of killer robots whose insidious creep into policing would put lives at risk and pose a serious threat to human rights, Amnesty International said today as it launched a new briefing in Geneva.

    Speaking at a meeting of the UN’s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), the organization is calling for a pre-emptive ban on the development, stockpiling, transfer, deployment and use of fully autonomous weapons systems (AWS or killer robots).

    Precursors to fully autonomous weapons – including drones and other unmanned weapons systems which are currently operated by humans – already are used to commit violations and present serious challenges to ensuring accountability. 

    But rapid advances in technology could mean the next generation of robotic weapons would be able to select and attack targets, potentially killing or injuring people, without effective human control – a chilling prospect which carries a new set of concerns.

    January 08, 2015

    US President Barack Obama should call for and support a comprehensive United Nations arms embargo on the parties to South Sudan’s brutal conflict, 29 South Sudanese and international human rights, humanitarian, and other groups said today in a letter to President Obama. Thousands of civilians have been killed in the conflict, which began just over a year ago, in many cases targeted for their ethnicity or perceived political allegiances. An estimated 1.9 million people have been displaced, and massive looting and burning by both government and opposition forces has left towns and rural areas destroyed and abandoned.

    “More weapons will mean more fuel to the fire, more attacks on civilians, arbitrary killings, rape, burnings and pillage,” said Geoffrey Duke, secretariat team leader at the South Sudan Action Network on Small Arms. “President Obama should do everything he can to ensure that this year is not a repeat of the horrific last year for South Sudanese. Now is the time to take action.”

    December 21, 2014

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 22 December 2014

    The global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) enters into force on 24 December, marking a breakthrough for human rights after more than two decades of campaigning by Amnesty International and its NGO partners around the world.

    December 08, 2014

    The US Congress risks supplying fresh weapons to forces and armed groups with terrible human rights records in Iraq and Syria if it approves Obama administration proposals to waive human rights screening requirements on military aid, Amnesty International said ahead of a Senate vote on key military legislation on Tuesday. 

    “In its rush to ‘degrade and destroy’ the Islamic State armed group, the Obama administration must not trample its international human rights obligations,” said Sunjeev Bery, Advocacy Director, Middle East North Africa at Amnesty International USA.

    “If approved, these new legislative proposals could simply open the floodgates, putting more weapons into the hands of armed groups alleged to have committed serious human rights abuses in both Iraq and Syria.”

    November 05, 2014

    (Juba, November 5, 2014) – South Sudan’s neighbors should urgently call for the United Nations Security Council to establish an arms embargo to stem gruesome violations in the country’s devastating conflict, more than 50 South Sudanese and international human rights and humanitarian organizations said in a petition to regional leaders. The ongoing attacks on civilians are contributing to a humanitarian crisis, the organizations said.

    Regional leaders including the presidents of Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia are to meet on November 6, 2014 in Addis Ababa to discuss South Sudan at a summit meeting of the regional body, the Intergovernmental Authority of Development (IGAD).

    “South Sudanese civilians are desperate and need regional leadership to help protect them,” said Geoffrey Duke, secretariat team leader at the South Sudan Action Network on Small Arms. “More weapons will mean these civilians will face more abusive attacks: killings, rape, burnings, pillage. Now is the time to take action.”

    September 26, 2014

    By Hilary Homes (Amnesty International Canada), Robert Fox (Oxfam Canada) and Ken Epps (Project Ploughshares)

    Long a significant advocate of global arms control, Canada will be conspicuously absent next year from arguably the most important conventional weapons conference of this generation.

    At a special ceremony taking place in New York today (Sept 25), diplomats will celebrate the fact that fifty countries have now ratified the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a landmark agreement to reduce the serious harm caused by the irresponsible and illegal trade in conventional weapons, including allies like the UK, Mexico, Germany and France. Canada has yet to sign or ratify, even though Canada voted in favour of the treaty in April last year.

    Now the landmark figure of 50 has been reached - with or without Canada - the Treaty will enter into force in 90 days time and become international law.

    September 24, 2014

    Posted at 0001 GMT 25 September 2014

    Protection for the millions of people whose lives are devastated by the poorly regulated global arms trade is set to take a giant leap forward on Thursday, Amnesty International said with the historic Arms Trade Treaty expected to surpass the 50 ratifications needed to trigger a 90 day countdown to entry into force.

    Argentina, the Bahamas, Czech Republic, Portugal, Saint Lucia, Senegal and Uruguay are expected to be the latest states to confirm ratification of the treaty at a ceremony at the UN in New York. The ATT now looks set to become international law on 25 December 2014 binding all the countries that have ratified it by then.

    “This is a milestone in the fight to end the human suffering caused by the irresponsible flow of arms. By the end of this year, there will be robust global rules to stop arms going to human rights abusers,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

    August 04, 2014

    Amnesty International is appealing to the US government to immediately halt the transfer of a US fuel shipment currently on its way to Israel for use by the Israeli military. The organization has repeatedly called for a comprehensive arms embargo on all parties to the conflict, amidst mounting evidence that war crimes are being committed by both sides in the past four weeks in Gaza.

    The US government has continued to supply hundreds of thousands of tons of fuel, including fuel for fighter jets and military vehicles, to Israel’s armed forces despite a soaring civilian death toll from aerial and other military attacks. The last US jet fuel delivery arrived in Israel on 14 July, a week after the conflict began. Nine previous shipments were made from the US to Israel during 2013 and 2014. A fuel tanker with the latest US fuel shipment is now sailing past the Azores and is due to arrive in Israel on 12 August.

    July 17, 2014

    The United Nations Security Council must impose a comprehensive arms embargo on South Sudan, Amnesty International urged after receiving reports of Chinese small arms and ammunition proliferation amongst both sides in the conflict.

    The organization also has confirmed that China supplied a further 1,000 tons of small arms and light weapons worth US$38 million to the country just over two weeks ago. 

    “China is playing a dangerous diplomatic game with the lives of millions of people in South Sudan. It has pledged to provide peacekeeping troops to protect civilians, and at the same time has sent over 1,000 ton of arms,” said Elizabeth Ashamu Deng, South Sudan Researcher at Amnesty International.

    “Such arms are likely to fall into the hands of both parties to the conflict and be used to fuel the atrocities threatening civilian lives.”

    The Security Council, of which China is a permanent member, has already condemned violations of international humanitarian law in South Sudan, including extrajudicial executions and ethnically targeted violence.

    June 02, 2014

    Posted at 0001 GMT 3 June 2014

    Rapid progress has been made in the year since the global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) opened for signature at the United Nations in New York, and a surge of further ratifications will soon activate the treaty this year, helping to save millions of lives and protect human rights, Amnesty International said as it marks the anniversary of the treaty signing on 3 June.

    The historic treaty has now been signed by 118 states and will become legally binding international law shortly after 50 countries ratify. Thirty-two states have already done so and around 10 more ratifications are expected on 3 June. 

    “Remarkable progress to bring the Arms Trade Treaty into force has been made in the past year, reflecting a strong desire of many states to tackle the irresponsible international arms trade. Strict implementation of this treaty will save millions of lives and reduce the risk of serious human rights abuses,” said Brian Wood, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International.

    March 31, 2014

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 1 April 2014

    Millions of people around the world will continue to suffer the deadly consequences of the poorly regulated global trade in weapons until many more governments take rapid steps to bring the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) into force, Amnesty International warned a year after the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted the treaty.

    On 2 April 2013, a total of 155 states voted in the UN General Assembly to adopt the ATT and 118 states have since signed the treaty, indicating their willingness to eventually bring it into their national law. But 43 of the states that supported the adoption of the treaty last year have yet to take any action whatsoever (see list below).

    “Too many governments have been dragging their heels. The list of 43 absent signatures is mostly made up of countries where armed conflicts, violent repression and gun violence are more frequent, yet those states have the most to gain from the treaty. This is a major failure of political leadership,” said Brian Wood, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International.

    March 03, 2014

    Posted at 0001 GMT 4 March 2014

    The UN Security Council’s relaxing of the international arms embargo on Somalia last year appears to have contributed to a rise in insecurity and human rights abuses that has resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths each month, Amnesty International said as it called for a robust embargo to be restored.

    In March 2013, the 21-year-old arms embargo on Somalia was partially lifted by the UN Security Council for one year, allowing the Somali government to import small arms and light weapons but not larger weapons and munitions. The Security Council is due to review this embargo by 6 March 2014 and the government has requested the embargo to be lifted.

    “The facts speak for themselves – security for Somalia’s people remains extremely volatile, and the ongoing flow of arms into the country is fanning the flames of armed violence and grave human rights abuses against civilians,” said Michelle Kagari, Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    September 26, 2013

    Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty called on governments to act on their promises to end the flow of conventional arms that fuel atrocities and abuse, after the number of countries that signed the historic Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) passed the 100 mark.

    At the United Nations in New York on Wednesday, Shetty told a meeting of government ministers and senior officials – including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon – how Amnesty International began the long journey for the treaty in 1993. He said the organization would “continue to challenge as many governments as possible to deliver on their promises to implement the lifesaving Arms Trade Treaty rapidly and rigorously.”

    “The political momentum on the treaty is encouraging but we don’t want to be sitting here in another 20 years wondering how we can stop arms fuelling the crises in different countries around the world,” Shetty said.

    September 25, 2013

    Joint News Release from Control Arms Coalition -  Oxfam Canada, Project Ploughshares, Amnesty International, Oxfam Québec 

    Ottawa – The Canadian members of the Control Arms Coalition today welcomed the United States decision to sign the Arms Trade Treaty, a global effort to reduce loss of life from the unregulated trade in weapons and ammunition. Oxfam Canada, Project Ploughshares, Amnesty International and Oxfam Québec also expressed frustration and disappointment at Canada’s failure to sign on.

    “Canada has a moral responsibility to help protect the lives of innocent civilians, particularly women and children”, said Lina Holguin, Policy Director for Oxfam Québec. “Why is Canada withholding its signature on a treaty that aims to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals, terrorists and mercenaries? It is incomprehensible.”


    Subscribe to Human Rights and the Arms Trade