It’s Official! United States Signs U.N. Arms Trade Treaty

Secretary of State John Kerry signing the Arms Trade Treaty (Photo Credit: Adotei Akwei).

Secretary of State John Kerry signing the Arms Trade Treaty (Photo Credit: Adotei Akwei).

By Nate Smith, Amnesty International USA MSP Thematic Specialist

In an important step forward for human rights and international law, Secretary of State John Kerry signed the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) on behalf of the United States earlier today.

Coming in the midst of concerns about the supply of weapons to Syrian government and Syrian rebels, Kerry’s signature signals the intention of the U.S., the world’s largest arms exporter, to abide by the terms of the treaty.

The treaty unequivocally bans arms transfers that are in violation of a U.N. arms embargo or that exporters have reason to know will be used to commit genocide and other grievous war crimes. Under the treaty, all exporting states have a new obligation to assess the risk that the weapons they provide will be used in human rights abuse and to halt such transfers where that risk is overwhelming.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What the U.S.’s Signature Would Mean to the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty

Campaigners with Control Arms fill out placards for an internet campaign with the names of the countries that have signed the Arms Trade Treaty (Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images).

Campaigners with Control Arms fill out placards for an internet campaign with the names of the countries that have signed the Arms Trade Treaty (Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images).

By Nate Smith, Chairman of Arms Transfers Co-Group at Amnesty International USA

Today, states from around the globe gathered at the United Nations headquarters in New York City to commit themselves to ending the flow of arms to human rights abusers, war criminals and conflict zones by signing the historic Arms Trade Treaty. A total of 62 nations have taken the opportunity to sign on the first possible day, a strong showing of global support.

While the United States was not among the signatories today, a statement from Secretary of State John Kerry has signaled strong support for the treaty, saying the U.S. intends to sign it soon and calling it “an important contribution to efforts to stem the illicit trade in conventional weapons, which fuels conflict, empowers violent extremists, and contributes to violations of human rights.”

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Thirteen Reasons for Obama to Sign the Arms Trade Treaty, Five Days Before the Signing Date!

Demonstrators from Amnesty International chant outside the White House in Washington, D.C. as they call for strong support for a comprehensive global Arms Trade Treaty   (Photo Credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images).

Demonstrators from Amnesty International chant outside the White House in Washington, D.C. as they call for strong support for a comprehensive global Arms Trade Treaty (Photo Credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images).

On June 3rd, the historic UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will open for signature. This treaty is the first global agreement to link the protection of human rights with the trade in conventional weapons, including the pernicious small arms and light weapons (SALW) that contribute to abuses in conflict and non conflict – throughout the world.

Why should President Obama be first in line to sign the ATT? Here are 13 reasons.

The Arms Trade Treaty:

1. Gives UN Security Council Embargoes Added Power

The ATT will help to fill a critical gap in international law by establishing that it is illegal to transfer weapons to countries that are subject to a United Nations Security Council embargo. While this is already an implicit principle of international law, the ATT reaffirms  and reinforces this critical principle.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

In the Name of My Grandfather: My Personal Search For a Lifesaving Arms Trade Treaty

Delegates to the United Nations General Assembly after passing the first UN treaty regulating the international arms trade (Photo credit: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Delegates to the United Nations General Assembly after passing the first UN treaty regulating the international arms trade (Photo credit: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images).

By Alberto Estévez, Amnesty International’s Advocacy Coordinator for the Arms
Trade Treaty

It was a special moment I’ll never forget.

On Wednesday, March 27, as I walked towards the UN official giving out copies of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), I held my breath wondering how the Golden Rule principle of “No Arms for Atrocities” had been worded in the final treaty text.

I glanced at the preamble, scope and implementation articles and rushed to read
articles 6 and 7, encompassing the Golden Rule. I read it again, in case I had
missed something. Then I had a look at the provisions on reporting, diversion
and how the treaty can be changed in the future. I took a deep breath and said
to myself: “Well done to Amnesty, we’ve got the Golden Rule in.”

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

We have an Arms Trade Treaty!

arms trade

After weeks of intense negotiations at the UN Conference, including a bitter roadblock put up by Iran, Syria and North Korea, a final treaty was adopted! The treaty prohibits arms transfers that would be used to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. We are now closer than ever to the golden rule we’ve been advocating for more than ten years: Governments must prevent arms transfers where there is a substantial risk that they will be used to commit serious violations of human rights.”

More importantly, we’re closer than ever to winning the fight that’s been 20 years in the making! While this is a big win, there is still a lot of work to do. The treaty is adopted but “asleep” – it needs to be signed and ratified by 50 countries before it will enter into force. Amnesty International USA will demand that the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress take this important stand for human rights by signing and then ratifying this landmark treaty.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Arms Trade Treaty Consensus Blocked, But Success Only Delayed

By Susan Waltz and Nate Smith, Amnesty International USA’s Military, Security and Police Transfers Coordination Group

Yesterday, states that gathered to negotiate a text for an Arms Trade Treaty fell short of their goal. The rules of the negotiating conference required consensus on the text of the treaty, and this consensus was blocked by Iran, Syria and North Korea. This development need not be seen as a failure, however – as a delegate from the U.K. put it, this is only delayed success. Soon, the UN General Assembly will take up the treaty, likely in current form, and subject it to a majority vote. It will almost certainly pass this vote, at which point it will be open for signatures and ratification, and it will enter into force at the 50th ratification.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Cautious Optimism for Final Arms Trade Treaty

This post is part of a special series on the Arms Trade Treaty. From March 18-28, world leaders from more than 150 countries are gathering for the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in New York. An Amnesty International delegation with representatives from every world region is participating and will be pressing leaders to agree to a strong treaty that upholds international human rights law.

By Susan Waltz, Amnesty Board Member and Arms Trade Treaty specialist

We’re down to the wire with the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations.  The next 24 hours will determine if the world is at long last ready to agree on standards for the lawful international transfer of lethal weapons.    The League of Nations tried twice to put some humanitarian limits on arms deals, but both efforts collapsed.  This time it could be different…really.

Amnesty activists rally outside the White House in support of a strong Arms Trade Treaty.

Amnesty activists rally outside the White House in support of a strong Arms Trade Treaty.

A final draft of the treaty was released today, and there are good reasons for cautious optimism – with an emphasis on caution.  The final draft doesn’t contain everything we hoped for, but it’s a vast improvement over the version in play last July.   Among other things, the draft treaty now clarifies that it will be a breach of international law to supply weapons when the supplier knows at the time of authorization that they will be used for genocide, crimes against humanity, attacks against civilians and grave war crimes. Small but significant changes have edged the text closer to the Golden Rule we’ve been advocating for more than ten years:  “Governments must prevent arms transfers where there is a substantial risk that they are likely to be used for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.”

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Behind the Scenes at the UN Arms Trade Treaty Conference

This post is part of a special series on the Arms Trade Treaty. From March 18-28, world leaders from more than 150 countries are gathering for the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in New York. An Amnesty International delegation with representatives from every world region is participating and will be pressing leaders to agree to a strong treaty that upholds international human rights law.

By Alberto Estévez, Advocacy Coordinator on the Arms Trade Treaty, International Secretariat of Amnesty International

It’s crunch time for human rights.

On Friday evening, the second draft of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was made public in the midst of the UN Final Conference on the ATT. The negotiations continued Monday and Tuesday and the final text will be made public sometime today.

The key issue for Amnesty International is whether the Treaty will have a preventive approach to prohibit an arms transfer when the State authorizing it knows that they will be used to commit atrocities. In legal jargon, this means whether it will prevent human rights violations constituting crimes under international law, i.e., extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and torture. This is what we in Amnesty International call the “Golden Rule.”

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Is U.S. Trying To Gut Arms Trade Treaty?

arms trade infographic facts

The US is trying to strip the Arms Trade Treaty of critical human rights protections.

This post is part of a special series on the Arms Trade Treaty. From March 18-28, world leaders from more than 150 countries are gathering for the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in New York. An Amnesty International delegation with representatives from every world region is participating and will be pressing leaders to agree to a strong treaty that upholds international human rights law.

By Nate Smith, Arms Trade Treaty Negotiations Observer

Update: THOUSANDS of your calls have been pouring into the White House since Monday.  Thank you and keep it up! Apparently, we’re partially responsible for jamming up White House lines, so please try this new number in case you’re having trouble getting through: 202-456-1414…24 hours left – let them hear you!

Late on Friday, the latest draft of the Arms Trade Treaty was shared publicly.  It’s not looking good.

Here’s what it boils down to: Will world leaders take the necessary steps now to prevent sending weapons to countries where they will likely be used for torture, summary executions, and other human rights abuses?  Or will they allow business as usual and wait until even more staggering numbers of civilians have been killed until they finally decide to stop arms shipments to those who are targeting civilians?

The second option is called the “body bag” approach.  The US government is among those who actually think this is a good idea.  It wants to allow critical human rights protections to be kept out of the treaty. These would require countries to exercise some due diligence in making sure they aren’t transferring weapons to places where they know they’ll be used in extrajudicial executions, disappearances, or torture – a global “background check” for arms transfers

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Biting the Bullet – Why the Arms Trade Treaty Must Regulate Ammunition

By Conor Fortune, News Writer at Amnesty International

This post is part of a special series on the Arms Trade Treaty. From March 18-28, world leaders from more than 150 countries are gathering for the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in New York. An Amnesty International delegation with representatives from every world region is participating and will be pressing leaders to agree to a strong treaty that upholds international human rights law.

“When she came out she was covered in blood. There are two bullets still in her head.”

No mother should ever have to utter such a chilling line about her child. But in Côte d’Ivoire, one woman recently told our researchers the harrowing story of how her 12-year-old girl survived a deadly attack on their village in the west of the country amid the post-election violence of early 2011.

The guns and ammunition used by Dozo militias were among those illegally smuggled into the country via Burkina Faso, in contravention of a UN arms embargo in place since 2004. Since before the embargo, weapons and ammunition were irresponsibly shipped to both sides in the Ivorian armed conflict.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST