Human Rights, Religious, Security Organizations Urge President Obama to Help Close the Deal on an Effective Global Arms Trade Treaty

Press Release
February 26, 2013

Human Rights, Religious, Security Organizations Urge President Obama to Help Close the Deal on an Effective Global Arms Trade Treaty

United Nations Talks on Arms Treaty Resume March 18; U.S. Leadership Needed on Key Issues

Contacts: Suzanne Trimel, Amnesty International (212-633-4150); Jessica Forres, Oxfam America (202-777-2914); Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Association (202-463-8270 x107)

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—A coalition of 36 nongovernmental organizations pressed President Obama today to provide the support necessary to conclude an effective Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which is up for renegotiation at the United Nations from March 18-28. The ATT will regulate the cross border trade of conventional weapons by closing the loopholes in the current international system.

In a letter delivered to President Obama, the organizations noted that the "Arms Trade Treaty can provide a key tool to help reduce the enormous human suffering caused by irresponsible international arms transfers and arms brokering."

"The United States, as the world's leading arms supplier, has a special responsibility to provide the leadership needed for an ATT with the highest possible standards for the transfer of conventional arms and ammunition," they wrote.

The letter was endorsed by leaders representing 36 human rights, development, religious, and security organizations, including: Amnesty International USA, Arms Control Association, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Oxfam America, National Association of Evangelicals, and others.

In the letter, the organizations highlight three key issues upon which Obama's leadership is particularly important:

  • Banning Arms for Atrocities—the NGO leaders urge Obama to strengthen the treaty to ensure it prohibits arms transfers that will aid and abet war crimes, genocide, or crimes against humanity and to perpetrators of a consistent pattern of serious violations of international human rights law.
  • Stronger Human Rights Risk Assessment—the NGO leaders urge the United States to strengthen the requirement in the treaty to ensure that arms exporters rigorously assess the risk of a proposed export being used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international human rights or humanitarian law, or acts of terrorism.
  • Including Ammunition in the Scope of the Treaty—the letter notes: "the flow of ammunition helps to feed and prolong conflicts and armed violence." Not only would the ATT require states to regulate a broad range of conventional weapons transfers, but the draft treaty under consideration would also require that each state "establish and maintain a national control system to regulate the export of ammunition for conventional arms under the scope of this Treaty."

The Obama administration has not yet expressed its support for this key provision of the treaty, even though the United States already licenses the import and export of conventional arms and ammunition. Failure by the U.S. administration to support the inclusion of ammunition in the scope of the treaty could unravel the talks in March.

"The Arms Trade Treaty is a call to conscience for the world to prevent weapons from being sold or traded to dictators, warlords and other human rights abusers who murder and torture civilians, recruit child soldiers and commit mass rapes in conflict zones. Weapons fuel atrocities," said Michelle Ringuette, chief of campaigns and programs at Amnesty International USA. "If we can cut off the flow of weapons into places where we know they will be used to commit human rights abuses, we can protect millions of lives."

"Thousands of civilians around the globe are slaughtered each year by weapons that are sold, transferred by governments or diverted to unscrupulous regimes, criminals, illegal militias, and extremists. The lack of high common international standards in the global arms trade also raises the risks faced by United States military and civilian personnel working around the globe," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America.

Contrary to the misinformation campaign of the National Rifle Association, advocates for the Arms Trade Treaty and the U.S. government have noted that the treaty would not in any way affect the legal possession of firearms by U.S. citizens. Amnesty International USA and Oxfam America have launched public information and advertising efforts to dispel the myths about the Arms Trade Treaty.

"The world demands an Arms Trade Treaty. Now is the time for U.S. leadership on this critical issue," says Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

"No one, except maybe illicit arms dealers and human rights abusers, should oppose common-sense international law regulating the arms trade," said Kimball. "The Arms Trade Treaty will not, by itself, prevent all illicit and irresponsible arms trafficking, but it will help reduce the enormous toll of armed conflict around the globe."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

Closing the Deal on an Effective Arms Trade Treaty - open letter to President Barack Obama