(NEW YORK) - With more than 100 countries having signed the groundbreaking Arms Trade Treaty, Amnesty International today urged all countries and especially China and Russia - the two holdouts among the Permanent Members of the U.N. Security Council and two of the top 10 arms exporters - to get behind this life-saving global effort.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry signed the treaty on behalf of the United States, among 20 countries to do so at the United Nations General Assembly. In less than four months, 108 countries have signed the treaty and seven have ratified it. It enters into force after 50 states have ratified it.
"We are encouraged that political momentum is building," said Frank Jannuzi, deputy executive director, Amnesty International USA. "And we will continue to challenge as many governments as possible to deliver on their promises to end the flow of conventional arms that fuel atrocities and abuses."
Jannuzi said the United States signature on the treaty as the world's largest arms exporter sent an important message about ending the unscrupulous global arms bazaar. "Now we need China and Russia to get onboard," he said, noting both have been responsible for arms exports to countries where human rights abuses are widespread, including Myanmar and Syria.
With a handful of partners, Amnesty International conceived the idea for a global arms treaty 20 years ago and has campaigned since to achieve robust, legally binding rules on international arms transfers.
With the United States, the other countries to sign Wednesday included Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chad, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Mongolia, Peru, Philippines, Sierra Leone and South Africa.
In addition, Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago ratified the treaty on Wednesday.
At least 500,000 people die every year on average and millions more individuals are displaced and subjected to abuses as a result of armed violence and conflict.
The Arms Trade Treaty will prohibit states from transferring conventional weapons to countries when they know those weapons will be used to commit or facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.
For the complete list of signatures and ratifications of the Arms Trade Treaty, click here.
Amnesty International and the Arms Trade Treaty:
Twenty years ago, Amnesty International campaigners and a handful of partners developed the idea for a global treaty that would stop the irresponsible flow of weapons to dictators and others who use them to commit human rights atrocities. Though initially greeted with skepticism, even mocked as simply too audacious, the idea drew support from luminaries like Nobel Peace Laureates Desmond Tutu and Oscar Arias, giving momentum to a worldwide effort by hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who lobbied their governments to push the treaty forward. The movement ultimately produced a significant human rights victory on April 2, 2013, when the treaty was overwhelmingly adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.
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.