Select this search icon to access the search form

Main menu

Facebook Share

Human Rights and the Arms Trade

    September 24, 2013

    Following reports that Secretary of State John Kerry will sign the Arms Trade Treaty on behalf of the USA on Wednesday morning, Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General commented:

    “This is a milestone towards ending the flow of conventional arms that fuel atrocities and abuse. The US is the world's largest arms dealer, but has so far had a mixed record of suspending arms supplies on human rights grounds.

    “We now need to see this commitment by the US - and the 86 other countries that have signed the Arms Trade Treaty - matched by action. They must implement the Treaty and bring to an end the supply of weapons to countries where they would be used to commit or facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or other serious human rights violations.

    “The tragic situation in Syria underlines the horrific human cost of the reckless global arms trade. The Arms Trade Treaty is the opportunity to prevent such human suffering in the future. Governments must seize this once in a lifetime opportunity. The world is now waiting for China and Russia to match the US commitment."

    August 20, 2013

    All governments must suspend the transfer of weapons of the type used by Egypt’s security forces in violent dispersals and unwarranted lethal force against sit-ins and other protests, Amnesty International said today.

    The organization has analyzed some of the transfers to Egypt in recent years – including tens of thousands of conventional weapons worth tens of millions of dollars. Among the countries supplying weapons and ammunition of the type used during the bloodshed on 14 August are the Czech Republic, China, Cyprus, France, Germany, Italy, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and the USA.

    The sales include military firearms, shotguns, riot control launchers and corresponding ammunition and projectiles, as well as armoured vehicles and military helicopters.

    “Weapons and equipment supplied irresponsibly to Egypt by a handful of countries are being used for excessive force and unlawful killings,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

    April 02, 2013

    Today, governments at the United Nations adopted by a wide margin an Arms Trade Treaty that will prohibit states from transferring conventional weapons to countries when they know those weapons will be used to commit or facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.

    In the UN General Assembly 154 states voted to adopt the treaty just days after Iran, North Korea and Syria – three human rights-abusing countries under some form of UN sanctions – staged a cynical move to try and block it. All three voted against the treaty today and 23 other states abstained.

    “This is a historic moment. After long years of campaigning, most states have agreed to adopt a global treaty that can prevent the flow of arms into countries where they will be used to commit atrocities,” said Brian Wood, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International, from the UN conference in New York.

    March 28, 2013

    Campaigner Hilary Homes on today's negotiations

    Once upon a time, treaty negotiations literally took place behind closed doors. Unless you had some good friends among the delegates, you had to wait until the very end to know the results.  Much of this month’s Arms Trade Treaty negotiations have not been covered by the media. But in the internet age I could virtually be there monitoring Amnesty delegates’ Twitter accounts while tuning into the live feed from the United Nations.

    After two decades of work to develop a treaty, the procedural delays around just getting the delegations into the room were nerve-racking. Would we or would we not finally have an Arms Trade Treaty?  Hurry up and vote! Once things got underway, however, it wasn’t long before Iran, Syria and North Korea blocked the consensus needed to finalize the treaty.  Though several states argued for adoption anyway, UN procedure means a return to another venue on another day, most likely the General Assembly itself.

    March 28, 2013

    In a deeply cynical move, Iran, North Korea and Syria have thwarted the adoption of an Arms Trade Treaty aimed at prohibiting states from transferring conventional weapons to countries when they know those weapons will be used to commit or facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, Amnesty International said today from the United Nations in New York.

    All three countries are under some form of sanctions, including arms embargoes, and have abysmal human rights records – having even used arms against their own citizens. The atrocities they have committed are precisely the type that the draft treaty aims to prevent.

    “While the President of the Diplomatic Conference will be able to take the draft treaty to the General Assembly for adoption during the current session, Iran, North Korea and Syria’s decision to prevent it being adopted unanimously at the treaty conference is unconscionable,” said Brian Wood, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International, currently in New York.

    March 27, 2013

    World leaders have just 24 hours to adopt the final text of an Arms Trade Treaty in what would be a major step towards ending the devastating human rights and humanitarian impact of the global trade in conventional weapons and munitions, Amnesty International said today from the United Nations in New York.

    The final draft of the treaty – circulated on Wednesday morning at the UN – is expected to be adopted by all Member States tomorrow barring significant objections.

    “While there are still deficiencies in this final draft, this treaty has the potential to provide significant human rights protection and curb armed conflict and violence if all governments demonstrate the political will to implement it properly and develop it in the future,” said Brian Wood, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International.

    March 25, 2013

    Serious deficiencies in a new draft Arms Trade Treaty text would fail to prevent arms transfers to countries where they could be used to commit or facilitate summary and arbitrary killings, torture and enforced disappearances, Amnesty International said today.

    The organization’s analysis of a new draft of the treaty circulated late on Friday found that the proposed text also falls short in other areas, including provisions relating to states’ public reporting on arms transfers as well as future amendments to the treaty.

    UN Member States are expected to come to a consensus and adopt a final treaty by Thursday 28 March.

    “The deadline is rapidly approaching for diplomats to agree decent rules to prevent the unlawful killing, grave abuses and devastation caused by the reckless international arms trade – governments need a wake up call to get their diplomats to shore up these serious deficiencies in the latest draft,” said Brian Wood, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International.

    March 20, 2013

    Reckless and illegal arms supplies from Europe, Africa and China to the warring parties in Côte d'Ivoire over the past decade continue to fuel grave human rights abuses and violent crime in the country, Amnesty International said in a detailed report launched at the United Nations headquarters.

    The 33-page report, Communities shattered by arms proliferation and abuse in Côte d’Ivoire, documents how a handful of states and a network of multinational arms traffickers supplied weapons and munitions to both sides in the conflict who committed war crimes and a range of human rights abuses including horrific violence against women and girls.

    The arms transfers took place both before and after the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on the country in November 2004.

    “Côte d'Ivoire provides a chilling reminder of how even a UN embargo can fail to halt arms from flowing freely to warring parties, with devastating consequences for the civilian population,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

    March 18, 2013

    The time has come for world leaders to address the poorly regulated global arms trade that fuels grave human rights abuses of tens of millions of people and claims countless lives each year, Amnesty International said today as the Final UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) opened in New York.

    The negotiations from 18-28 March are an opportunity for states to agree rules to end irresponsible arms transfers across borders that fuel grave abuses of human rights. This is an acid test for states to demonstrate their commitment to human rights and humanitarian law.

    “Syria, Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sri Lanka are just a few recent examples where the world bore witness to the horrific human cost of a reckless global arms trade steeped in secrecy,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's Secretary General.

    March 14, 2013

    US President Barack Obama must take the lead in securing a strong global Arms Trade Treaty, a group of 18 Nobel Peace Prize winners said in an open letter delivered to their fellow laureate at the White House today. 

    Amnesty International, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and Dr. Óscar Arias are among the Nobel Laureates, who also include leaders on human rights, humanitarian and disarmament issues from Africa, the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East and North Africa.

    The letter was delivered ahead of talks starting on 18 March at the UN in New York to conclude the negotiations on an historic treaty aimed at bringing the poorly regulated global arms trade under control.

    “The US and other arms supplier states have both a moral duty and a national security interest to help achieve [a strong] Treaty in order to protect human rights and save the lives of innocent civilians caught in the crosshairs of conflicts fuelled by the irresponsible international conventional weapons trade,” the Nobel Laureates said in the letter.

    March 12, 2013

    All United Nations Member States will gather in New York from 18-28 March 2013 for final negotiations on a historic treaty to regulate the international trade in conventional arms.

    Amnesty International will have a delegation at the UN throughout the conference and will have spokespeople available for comment in multiple languages, both at the UN and in many capitals around the world. The organization’s Secretary General will attend several days of the conference.

    As a global human rights movement, Amnesty International has been campaigning for two decades for a global treaty to control the transfer of conventional arms with strong rules for human rights protection, and has been pressing all states to agree robust mechanisms with a wide scope to establish common standards that will close the many loopholes in national control systems.

    Such a treaty would save countless lives by ensuring that an international arms transfer is blocked when there is a substantial risk the arms would be used to facilitate or commit serious violations of human rights or war crimes.


    March 12, 2013

    Arms supplied by the world’s major powers are among those contributing to the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and blighting the livelihoods of millions of people every year, Amnesty International said in a new briefing published just days before final negotiations on a global Arms Trade Treaty open at the United Nations.

    Between them, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – China, France, Russia, the UK and the USA – are responsible for over half of the almost US$100 billion total annual global trade in conventional weapons.

    The same five states will be pivotal to finalizing an effective Arms Trade Treaty with strong human rights protections at the conference taking place at the UN from 18-28 March.

    All this week in the run-up to that historic meeting, Amnesty International activists and supporters are holding a “Global Week of Action” to call on world leaders to adopt an effective Arms Trade Treaty with strong human rights protections.

    February 11, 2013

    Halting the use of child soldiers in conflicts is just one of a series of compelling reasons for states to adopt a strong Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), Amnesty International said to mark the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers on 12 February.

    In Mali and close to 20 other countries, poorly regulated international arms transfers continue to contribute to the recruitment and use of boys and girls under the age of 18 in hostilities – by armed groups and, in some cases, government forces.

    With the final talks on the ATT taking place at the United Nations next month, Amnesty International continues to call on all states to adopt a strong treaty with effective rules to protect human rights.

    “Amnesty International’s recent research on the ground in Mali has revealed once more the horrors faced by child soldiers who are being recruited in numerous conflicts around the world to support troops and armed groups, sometimes in frontline roles,” said Brian Wood, Amnesty International’s Head of Arms Control and Human Rights.

    November 27, 2012

    By Ann Harrison, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme

    Damage to an apartment building in Rishon LeZion, outside Tel Aviv, from rockets fired from Gaza © Amnesty International.


    It was dawn when we arrived in Israel to begin our investigation into rocket attacks from Gaza which by the end of the latest flare in violence had left six Israelis, including four civilians, dead, at least 40 injured and 300 more treated for shock.

    Up in the sky oddly shaped vapour trails made us wonder if these were the remnants of the “Iron Dome” missiles – used to intercept the rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups which this time reached as far north as Tel Aviv.

    November 07, 2012

    A historic treaty to regulate the global arms trade has won the backing of an overwhelming majority of states in a move Amnesty International called a potential victory for human rights worldwide.

    In the biggest show of support so far, 157 governments at the UN General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament in New York voted on Wednesday in favour of finalizing the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) next March.

    Among the "big six" arms-exporting countries, only Russia abstained from voting on Wednesday. China joined France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the USA in supporting the resolution. 

    “After today’s resounding vote, if the larger arms trading countries show real political will in the negotiations, we’re only months away from securing a new global deal that has the potential to stop weapons reaching those who seriously abuse human rights,” said Brian Wood, Arms Control Manager at Amnesty International.


    Subscribe to Human Rights and the Arms Trade