Military Security and Police Transfers (MSP)

April 25, 2021

Weapons and ammunition are produced and sold in shockingly large quantities, and reckless arms trading devastates lives. Inside and beyond areas of armed conflict and political instability, civilians typically bear the brunt of modern conflict. 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.

In accord with International law, Amnesty International opposes the deployment and transfer of weapons that risk being used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law, including possible war crimes.


Human Rights and the arms trade

Amnesty International advocates for the inclusion of a human rights framework in arms trade policies and we work to prevent arms transfers likely to jeopardize human rights. 



Governments that supply weapons to other states have a responsibility to deny sales where they will be used in serious violation of international human rights and humanitarian law, including genocide and crimes against humanity. After more than 20 years of campaigning by Amnesty International and partner NGOs, the Arms Trade Treaty became international law on 24 December 2014. The Treaty was designed to stop deadly weapons from getting into the hands of people who will use them to commit human rights violations, and any state that is a party  to the treaty must obey strict rules on international arms transfers. More than 100 countries have joined the Treaty, and there are over 30 more who have signed the treaty which is the first step towards becoming a party to the ATT. The Treaty can help save lives, but only if it is properly implemented, and if states are held accountable when they breach it.

Tear Gas, police batons and the trade in tools of torture

Law enforcement equipment that is inherently abusive or which is readily misused for torture or other ill-treatment continues to be traded across the world.  Police and security forces today have access to an arsenal of less-lethal equipment – weapons that are not designed to kill but still have the possibility of lethal effect.   In this 2020 report Tear Gas: An Investigation Amnesty examines why tear gas use is harmful and circumstances that make it particularly dangerous.  And in this 2021 report Blunt Force, Amnesty focus on “striking weapons” because they are one of the most common pieces of policing equipment and are routinely misused. They are often used on person already under control and/or to punish by inflicting pain — and in some cases this amounts to torture or other ill-treatment.  The trade in inherently cruel, inhuman and abusive law enforcement equipment, such as electric shock batons, must be prohibited.  The trade in less lethal equipment, including tear gas and tasers, should be strictly controlled.


Lethal autonomous weapons and landmines
Lethal Autonomous Weapons have dangerous implications for human rights.  Amnesty International advocates for a total ban on the development, production and use of fully autonomous weapon systems.  Their use undermines fundamental human rights and creates accountability gaps since LAWs are not capable of making informed determinations about the use of force. Our work on lethal autonomous weapons ranges from promoting the Mine Ban treaty and bans on indiscriminate weapons like cluster munitions and landmines to promoting the responsible use of artificial intelligence in weapons development.
saudi arabia and yemen conflict
The conflict in Yemen between Houthi forces and a Saudi-backed coalition of regional powers has involved grave human rights violations by both sides – however, it is the Saudi-led side that is supplied, armed and trained but by the United States. AI’s position on this is clear: no arms for atrocities. The U.S. and other arms-supplying countries must stop selling arms and providing training to parties to this conflict, and instead lean on all parties to end the targeting of civilians and critical civilian infrastructure.

msp action network

The “MSP Action Network” is a small group of arms trade experts and Amnesty activists committed to upholding human rights in domestic and foreign arms export regimes and willing to participate in related educational and advocacy efforts.  Contact [email protected] if you are interested in joining our work.

OUR recent work on military and security transfers:

Hong Kong Police Abuses

When China used a wide range of riot control equipment to disperse largely peaceful protests in Hong Kong during 2019 and 2020, Amnesty International pointed up the dangers associated with water cannons, tear gas and other less lethal weapons, and urged the Hong Kong police to adopt less confrontational approaches to demonstrators. AIUSA pressed the US government to ensure review of crowd control equipment exports to Hong Kong as a measure to prevent human rights abuses and supported the Protect Hong Kong Act enacted in November 2019.

Promote Strong Human Rights Protections in U.S. Export Law and Policy

Seven years after signing the Arms Trade Treaty and signaling intentions to abide by its provisions, the US abruptly “unsigned” the ATT and withdrew its support.  Amnesty International urges the Biden administration to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the ATT and strengthen the U.S. export regulatory regime to enhance human rights controls on firearms exports, security assistance and other weapons sales.

End Landmine Production, Sale and Use

In coalition with other non-governmental organizations and human rights organizations, Amnesty International has urged the Biden administration to reverse a 2000 policy lifting prohibitions against the US use of landmines.   Landmines are inherently indiscriminate weapons that maim and kill long after conflicts end. Over the past twenty years, the world has rejected antipersonnel landmines through the Mine Ban Treaty – to which 164 countries are states parties, including every other member of NATO. While still not a signatory, the U.S. for many years has functionally adhered to several provisions of the Mine Ban Treaty – except those that would prohibit the U.S. from ordering the use of landmines on the Korean peninsula. The 2020 landmine policy starkly sets the U.S. apart from its allies and has drawn international condemnation, including from the European Union. Read our coalition’s statement on the 2020 Landmine Policy.

Arms Embargo on South Sudan Extended

In 2020, Amnesty International successfully advocated for the Security Council to vote on a resolution that would renew the arms embargo on South Sudan. Maintaining the embargo will contribute to restricting the ability of armed actors to perpetrate human rights violations and abuses.