Protection for the millions of people whose lives are devastated by the poorly regulated global arms trade is set to take a giant leap forward today, Amnesty International said with the historic Arms Trade Treaty expected to surpass the 50 ratifications needed to trigger a 90-day countdown to entry into force.
Argentina, the Bahamas, Czech Republic, Portugal, Saint Lucia, Senegal and Uruguay are expected to be the latest states to confirm ratification of the treaty at a ceremony at the UN in New York. The ATT now looks set to become international law on 25 December 2014 binding all the countries that have ratified it by then.
“This is a milestone in the fight to end the human suffering caused by the irresponsible flow of arms. By the end of this year, there will be robust global rules to stop arms going to human rights abusers,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
“This remarkable progress would not have been possible without the support of more than a million people who helped keep up the pressure on governments and said ‘enough is enough, the supply of arms for atrocities and abuses must stop’. But the campaign does not stop here, all states need to urgently bite the bullet and commit to the Arms Trade Treaty.”
Amnesty International has lobbied and campaigned relentlessly since the mid-1990s for an Arms Trade Treaty. At least half a million people die every year on average and millions more are injured, raped and forced to flee from their homes as a result of the poorly regulated global trade in weapons.
The ATT includes a number of rules to stop the flow of weapons to countries when it is known they would be used to commit or facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or other serious violations of human rights.
Five of the top 10 arms exporters – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK have already ratified the ATT. While the USA is yet to ratify it has signed the treaty. There has been resistance to ratification from other major arms producers like China, Canada, Israel and Russia.
“If political leaders are serious about ending the flow of arms used to commit crimes against humanity, war crimes and persistent gun violence that denies people their human rights then governments must join the Arms Trade Treaty and start implementing it effectively. There can be no excuses for inaction or double-talk when it comes to this lifesaving treaty,” said Salil Shetty.
Amnesty International has campaigned since the early 1990s with NGO partners to achieve robust, legally binding, global rules on international arms transfers to stem the flow of conventional arms and munitions that fuel atrocities and human rights abuses. More than a million people around the world have called on governments to agree a strong Arms Trade Treaty with robust rules to protect lives.
On 2 April 2013, a total of 155 states voted in the UN General Assembly to adopt the ATT and 119 states have since signed the treaty, indicating their willingness to bring it into their national law. Although 41 states that supported the adoption of the treaty last year have yet to sign the treaty, international momentum to make the treaty a reality is still growing.
Amnesty International has continued to document and expose irresponsible arms transfers that facilitate grave abuses. This includes a massive shipment of arms from China to South Sudan where both sides to the armed conflict have been committing horrific acts, and recent arms supplies to Egypt from the USA, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Turkey despite a substantial risk those arms would be used by Egyptian security forces to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations.
Russia is now positioning itself to be a major exporter of military equipment to Egypt. According to press reports, Egypt has signed a deal for $US2 billion worth of military equipment, including military helicopters. The deal, reportedly finalized during General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s state visit to Moscow in February, is said to be financed by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.