Obama Administration Must Not Delay Consensus on Historic U.N. Arms Trade Treaty on Final Day of Talks

Press Release
July 27, 2012

Obama Administration Must Not Delay Consensus on Historic U.N. Arms Trade Treaty on Final Day of Talks

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @strimel

(New York) – Amnesty International on Friday urged the White House not to delay consensus at the United Nations on an historic arms trade treaty that would provide for a critical global "background check" to stop dictators and mass killers from buying weapons to commit human rights atrocities.

Suzanne Nossel, executive director, Amnesty International USA, said: "The message from the Obama administration on the arms trade treaty seems to be: ‘We'll get back to you about this.' It's unconscionable.This treaty can save millions of lives lost by stopping weapons from getting into the hands of dictators who we know use imported weapons to kill and injure civilians and commit atrocities, like those happening right now in Syria. The treaty creates a global background check to prevent arms exporters from selling guns and military hardware to these human rights abusers. It offers a lifeline to people caught up in armed conflicts spreading like wildfire because of the unregulated trade in weapons and ammunition."

Amnesty International said the U.S. position claiming it didn’t have enough time to review final changes in the text before the close of the treaty conference Friday was especially disappointing given that the final draft addressed a number of potentially serious flaws contained in a previous text.

With only hours to go in the talks, the White House position means the treaty may be sent for consideration in the fall by the U.N. General Assembly.

Amnesty International welcomed the fact that several major loopholes that would have severely undermined the effectiveness of the treaty have been addressed, but a few serious concerns remain. The treaty would require governments for the first time to make decisions on arms transfers according to high common standards.

International human rights and humanitarian law remain central to the draft text, demonstrating the consistent commitment by a large number of governments to ensure that this remains in any final agreement.

A floor not a ceiling is now proposed for the types of weapons, munitions and equipment to be covered by the treaty. Ammunition, as well as parts and components for arms, would also be subject to a much tighter decision-making process before an international transfer can take place.

Essential elements that were previously omitted but have now been addressed include the need to have measures that would criminalize any breaches of the treaty.

States would now also be required to take appropriate measures to prevent diversion of weapons for unauthorized end use so they don’t end up in the hands of those that are not supposed to have them.

The negotiations are the culmination of six years of U.N. work on the treaty and over a decade of campaigning by Nobel Peace Laureates and groups including Amnesty International.

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.