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.
At least 500,000 people die every year on average as a result of armed violence and conflict, and millions more are displaced and abused.
Referring to the 155 states which voted to adopt the ATT at the UN General Assembly in April last year, Amnesty International appealed to their political leaders to stop dragging their heels and sign and ratify the treaty without delay. A majority of those states have already signed or ratified, but 43 of them – mostly from Asia, Africa and the Middle East – have yet to take any action at all.
The organization is also reminding states that they do not need to wait until the ATT’s entry into force to begin observing the treaty’s human rights provisions. Several countries – Antigua and Barbuda, Belgium, Costa Rica, Germany, Iceland, Mexico, Norway, Serbia, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, and the UK – have already declared they will implement the treaty’s human rights provisions before it enters into force.
Amnesty International has campaigned since the early 1990s to achieve robust, legally binding, global rules on international arms transfers to stem the flow of conventional arms and munitions that fuel atrocities and abuse. Millions of people around the world called on governments to agree a strong Arms Trade Treaty with robust rules to protect lives.
Once it enters into force, the ATT will prohibit states from transferring conventional weapons and munitions to countries when they know those arms would be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights abuses, including genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. All states parties will have to carry out objective assessments to avoid an overriding risk that an arms export would be used for serious human rights violations.
The treaty will enter into force 90 days after the 50th ratification. Amnesty International and its partners continue to push for all governments to sign, ratify and strictly implement the treaty as soon as possible.
States from every region in the world signed the ATT soon after it opened for signature on 3 June 2013, including four of the world’s major arms producers and exporters – France, Germany, the UK and the USA, which signed in September 2013. The other two major arms exporters, China and Russia, both abstained in last year’s vote, but diplomats expect them to sign the treaty once a large number of states have joined.