Arms Control and Human Rights
The irresponsible transfer of arms and other military, security and policing equipment poses grave threats to human rights worldwide and is a major concern of Amnesty International. As global production and markets for these items spread internationally, the easy availability of “tools of violence” enables the suppression of human rights, exacerbating armed conflicts and state repression. Also, the proliferation and abuse of small arms fuels epidemic levels of gun deaths and injuries in some countries.
In addition, the continuous development of new military, security and policing technologies is presenting international challenges to human rights. New munitions with immense destructive power and some that have indiscriminate effects, as well as surveillance technologies and robotic weapons systems are entering the markets. The world now even faces the growing prospect of fully autonomous weapons, or “Killer Robots”, being deployed which can choose targets and attack without meaningful human control.
Amnesty International researches and takes action to expose and devise proposals to help address these human rights problems, above all those posed by the irresponsible arms trade and misuse of conventional arms, especially small arms, inhumane weapons of warfare, ‘less lethal’ weapons used in policing and prisons and the trade in equipment used for torture.
The Arms Trade Treaty
The full establishment of a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and its robust implementation is an idea Amnesty International initiated and one of our top priorities. After twenty years of global campaigning by Amnesty International with its partners, governments at the United Nations voted overwhelmingly to adopt an ATT on 2 April 2013. So far 118 states have signed the Treaty and 45 have ratified it. Three months after 50 ratifications the Treaty will enter into force. The rules, if properly implemented, will stop a wide range of arms flows when the sending state knows those weapons would be used for human atrocities and grave abuses of human rights. States that are parties to the Treaty will meet and report regularly, and can strengthen it over time.
The establishment of the ATT with so many states joining its support is a huge victory for human rights, given the powerful forces that opposed the Treaty. For the first time, there is a Treaty that has explicitly included conventional arms control and human rights rules. We must keep pushing to get as many states as possible to implement the Treaty in order to have the potential to save lives and livelihoods.
The Treaty’s human rights rules are simple – if a state has knowledge at the time of authorization that the arms would be used for genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes then the arms transfer must not be permitted. Also, if there is a substantial risk that arms exported to another country will contribute to serious human rights abuses, those arms supplies must also be stopped. There must be no more arms exported for atrocities or for grave human rights abuses.