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

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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.”

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We have an Arms Trade Treaty!

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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.

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Cautious Optimism for Final Arms Trade Treaty

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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.”

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Behind the Scenes at the UN Arms Trade Treaty Conference

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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.”

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