Arms control and human rights


The Arms Trade Treaty


The creation of a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is an initiative of Amnesty International and remains one of our priorities. After twenty years of global campaigning and advocacy by Amnesty International with its partners, the ATT entered into force on 24 December 2014. This is a huge victory for all those involved and marks a historic breakthrough for human rights protection. So far 130 states have signed the Treaty and 61 have ratified it. The rules of the ATT, 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. 


For the first time, there is a Treaty that explicitly embeds human rights rules in the control of conventional arms. The Treaty’s human rights rules are simple – if a state has knowledge at the time of authorization of the arms transfer that those arms would be used for genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes then the 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. 


States that are parties to the Treaty will meet and report regularly, and can strengthen it over time. We must keep pushing to get as many states as possible to effectively implement the Treaty in order for it to have the potential to save lives and livelihoods. You can find out here if your country has joined the Treaty:


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.



News and Updates

Central African Republic: UN must not let peacekeepers fail

5 December 2013

The international community must give peacekeepers in the Central African Republic all the means necessary to protect civilians or risk an escalation in atrocities that could spill over to neighbouring countries.

World leaders urged to make Arms Trade Treaty work after more than 100 sign on

26 September 2013

Amnesty International urged governments to act on their promises to end the flow of conventional arms that fuel atrocities and abuse,  after the number of countries that signed the historic Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) passed the 100 mark.

USA set to sign Arms Trade Treaty

24 September 2013

US Secretary of State John Kerry is due to sign the Arms Trade Treaty at the UN General Assembly this week.

Turkey: Fresh protests spark fears over pending tear gas shipments

12 September 2013

All countries should suspend shipments of tear gas, armoured vehicles and other riot control projectile equipment to Turkey.

Recent bloodshed underscores urgent need to halt arms transfers to Egypt

20 August 2013

All governments must suspend the transfer of weapons of the type used by Egypt’s security forces in violent dispersals and unwarranted lethal force against sit-ins and other protests.


Sudan: No end to violence in Darfur: Arms supplies continue despite ongoing human rights violations

24 April 2012

The supply of various types of weapons, munitions and related equipment to Sudan in recent years, by the governments of Belarus, the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation, have allowed the Sudanese authorities to use their army, paramilitary forces, and government-backed militias to carry out grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Sudan. This ongoing flow of new arms to Darfur has sustained a brutal nine-year conflict which shows little sign of resolution.

No arms for atrocities or abuses: Commit to an effective Arms Trade Treaty

23 January 2012

Each year, the global trade in conventional arms carries an enormous human cost. In July 2012, UN member states will be invited to the UN conference to negotiate an Arms Trade Treaty. Now is the time to ensure that the Treaty contains the highest possible common standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms. This briefing documents five personal stories in the context of human rights violations committed or facilitated using conventional arms in law enforcement or military operations.

Arms trade to Middle East and North Africa shows failure of export controls

19 October 2011

A number of key arms manufacturing countries supplied large quantities of weapons to repressive governments in the Middle East and North Africa.

Key elements for implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)

13 July 2011

This document lists suggested key elements for “creating high common international standards” for national systems of licensing or authorisation for the export, import and other international transfers of conventional arms. It also sets out Amnesty International's position on key transparency measures and victim assistance.

Arms for Internal Security: Will they be covered by an Arms Trade Treaty?

17 June 2011

There is now a chance in the UN to establish a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) setting out commonly-agreed rules for strict national regulation and international monitoring of the trade and transfer of conventional arms. This briefing paper includes Amnesty International's proposal for the inclusion of the scope of equipment into an ATT including an indicative list of the conventional arms and a summary definition. It also includes examples of conventional arms that may, inadvertently, be excluded from the scope of the ATT.

Our Right to Know: Transparent Reporting under an Arms Trade Treaty

13 June 2011

Public reporting is a key means by which the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will become more than a set of obligations and actually affect States’ behaviour. Fully transparent reporting will build confidence amongst States and provide a basis for States and civil society to assess how the ATT is being applied in practice. This document focuses on why States should transparently report on their international arms trade and transfers. It also provides a brief overview of transparency initiatives to date, and outlines how a reporting mechanism could be incorporated into the Treaty.

How an Arms Trade Treaty can help prevent armed violence

2 March 2011

Current United Nations discussions on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) provide an opportunity to examine armed violence in the context of decisions concerning international transfers of conventional arms used in armed violence. This report is divided into two parts. Part I examines how an ATT with a clearly elaborated risk assessment process can make a contribution to the prevention and reduction of armed violence. Part II focuses on firearms-related homicide and emphasises the importance of adopting an approach to addressing armed violence that will encompass violence outside of armed conflict settings.

States failing to control movement of weapons to human rights abusers

19 July 2010

A new Amnesty International report, shows how transport companies are able to move conventional weapons and munitions to countries where they could be used to commit rights violations and war crimes.

Deadly Movements: Transportation Controls in the Arms Trade Treaty

19 July 2010

The proposed Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) should be designed to prevent unauthorised or irresponsible international transfers of weapons, munitions and related equipment internationally. This briefing note explains that inadequate regulation of arms transportation is a global problem, not confined to jurisdictions with weak arms transfer controls. The Arms Trade Treaty provides a critical opportunity to define high common international standards to address the adequate regulation of the physical movement of conventional arms.

Reform of security forces in Guinea must deliver justice for Bloody Monday massacre

23 February 2010

A new Amnesty International report documents extrajudicial executions, torture and other ill-treatment carried out by particular units of Guinea's armed forces last year.