Arms control and human rights


After twenty years of global campaigning, on 2 April 2013, governments at the United Nations voted overwhelmingly to adopt a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT); since then over a hundred states have signed and many of those have started to ratify the Treaty. The rules, if implemented, will stop a wide range of arms flows when the sending state knows those weapons would be used for human atrocities and abuse. States that are parties to the Treaty will meet and report regularly, and can strengthen it over time.


This 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.


Now the ATT has been adopted, there is an urgent need to put pressure on governments to sign, ratify and implement the Treaty. 50 ratifications will bring the Treaty into force, but we must keep pushing to get as many states as possible to implement the Treaty. Only then will the Treaty have the potential to save lives and livelihoods.


War crimes, unlawful killings, torture and other serious human rights abuses have been committed around the world using a wide range of weapons, munitions and military and security equipment. These are often provided to perpetrators in almost unlimited supply, encouraging and prolonging unlawful violence. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, injured, raped and forced to flee from their homes as a result; governments continue to license irresponsible arms flows to fuel human atrocities and abuse.


In the early 1990s Amnesty International began calling for a treaty to ensure that states stop allowing transfers of military and policing equipment where it is likely those arms will be used for serious human rights abuses. In 2003 Amnesty International launched an international campaigning with civil society for a global Arms Trade Treaty to set rules for the strict regulation of the international transfers of conventional arms.


Our message is simple – if there is a substantial risk that arms exported to another country will contribute to serious human rights abuses or war crimes, those arms supplies must be stopped.


No more arms for atrocities or abuses!

Ongoing threats to human rights worldwide are posed by the irresponsible transfer not only of existing conventional arms and military equipment but also of policing equipment. In addition to this, new military and policing technologies are presenting new international challenges to human rights. Amnesty International also researches and takes action on problems posed by the trade and use of inhumane weapons of warfare, robotic weapons, ‘less lethal’ weapons used in policing and prisons and the trade in equipment used for torture.


News and Updates

Turkey: Riot police in reprehensible crackdown on peaceful May Day protest

1 May 2014

The use of tear gas and water cannon against peaceful protesters today by police in Istanbul is a reprehensible move to crack down on free expression and peaceful assembly, Amnesty International said. 

New global coalition urges governments to keep surveillance technologies in check

4 April 2014

World leaders must commit to keeping invasive surveillance systems and technologies out of the hands of dictators and oppressive regimes, said a new global coalition of human rights organizations as it launched today in Brussels. 


Q&A: Coalition Against Unlawful Surveillance Exports (CAUSE)

4 April 2014

The Coalition Against Unlawful Surveillance Exports (CAUSE) brings together leading global and national human rights and other NGOs, who are all calling for governments to take action on the international trade in communication surveillance technologies.

UN: Atrocities fuelled by inaction on Arms Trade Treaty promises

1 April 2014

Millions of people around the world will continue to suffer the deadly consequences of the poorly regulated global trade in weapons until many more governments take rapid steps to bring the Arms Trade Treaty into force.


Turkey: Funeral protests over Gezi Park police impunity

12 March 2014

Amnesty International is monitoring events at the funeral old 15-year-old Berkin Elvan in Istanbul as thousands gather in cities across Turkey to protest ongoing police impunity. 


Controls on military assistance to Somalia must be tightened

21 January 2010

Arms transfers should be suspended until there are adequate safeguards to prevent weapons from being used to commit war crimes and human rights abuses, says Amnesty International.

How to Apply Human Rights Standards to Arms Transfer Decisions

1 October 2008

In order to achieve a more effective regulation of the international arms trade, all international transfers of conventional weaponry, munitions and equipment should be carried out in accordance with states’ legal obligations. All states have obligations under international human rights law applicable to transfers of conventional arms. The purpose of this document is to assist states and regional organisations in applying their human rights obligations. It proposes guidelines for assessing the risk of a proposed transfer being used for serious violations of human rights.

Arms Trade Treaty could fail without human rights

17 September 2008

Every year, more than 300,000 people are killed with conventional weapons. Millions more are injured, abused, forcibly displaced and bereaved as a result of armed v