Military, Police and Arms

Stop Flows of Arms that Fuel Abuses

A global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) became international law on 24 December 2014.

Every state that has signed-up must now obey strict rules on international arms transfers. This will at last help to stem the flow of weapons that fuel bloody conflicts, atrocities and state repression around the world. It’s rare to get a direct win that will help save thousands of lives, but after relentless lobbying and campaigning since the early-1990s, Amnesty and its partners have done exactly that. The Treaty’s rules are simple – if a country knows that the arms about to be sold will be used for genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes, then they must stop the transfer. The work doesn’t stop here. The ATT gives us crucial ground rules for the global arms trade. Now we must make sure that it is strictly put into action and more states get on board.

The problem

Every day, thousands of people are killed, injured or forced to flee their homes because of violence and armed conflict.


The majority of casualties in armed conflict are civilians. Weapons such as missiles destroy hospitals, homes, markets and transport systems – pushing survivors into poverty. People’s lives are destroyed. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, it is estimated that more than five million people died indirectly because of armed conflict since 1998.

For every person who is killed in armed conflict and armed violence, many more are injured, tortured, abused, or kidnapped at gun point.

On the streets

Weapons aren’t just on the battle fields: they often end up on the streets, fuelling violence in communities. Three-quarters of deaths cause by armed violence take place in non-conflict situations. In places like Central America, domestic violence and killings of women are frequently committed with small arms bought on the black market.

“The poor and under-privileged innocent bystanders – women, children, old men – always lose. I have seen the prolonged misery and suffering of these poor people in DRC and it is truly heart-rending,”

Mujahid Alam, retired Pakistani Brigadier General who served on UN Peacekeeping missions in the DRC and Kosovo.

State repression

Weapons are also a tool for state repression. In too many countries around the world, security forces use firearms against unarmed peaceful protestors, or to commit other human rights abuses.

Amnesty is calling for

Government who are serious about stopping the abuse need to:

  • Ratify the Arms Trade Treaty.
  • Create or amned national laws to reflect the rules of the treaty.
  • Implement those laws effectively.