Arms Control & Human Rights

Every day at least 1,500 people die from armed violence and conflict.

Amnesty International regularly reporting on the widespread misuse of arms in serious human rights violations and killings for decades. Most recently, highlighting the use of UK supplied defense vehicles being used in the crackdown against peaceful protestors in Libya.

Although there are global regulations for all sorts of things – from postage stamps to dinosaur bones – the arms trade, with all its violent consequences, has so far been allowed to function largely unrestricted in the absence of effective international regulations.

Protesters crash with riot police outside the Greek Parliament during a demonstration ©AP Photo/ Petros Giannakouris

In 2006 the world took a major step forward - 153 governments voted at the UN to start work on developing a global Arms Trade Treaty. By 2009 the UN general assembly had launched a time frame for the negotiations, including one preparatory meeting in 2010 and two in 2011.

At these meetings it became clear that not everybody involved wants a robust Treaty – as it stands weapons such as tear gas and crowd control vehicles and even bullets may not be included within its scope.

Weapons confiscated from a paramilitary group during a raid in Medellin ©REUTERS/Albeiro Lopera

With so much at risk we must work hard in the lead up to these remaining negotiations to ensure that human rights are enshrined in the Arms Trade Treaty.

This is vital because any legally-binding piece of legislation connected to the arms trade which is not comprehensive, nor includes binding human rights commitments, has the potential to be far more dangerous than having no treaty at all. Such a weak agreement would allow countries to continue  to transfer weapons where they may be used to commit human rights abuses.

During 2012 there are two UN meetings at which the content of the Treaty will be debated and voted on by member states. The final preparatory meeting is 13 – 17 February, with the formal negotiations running from 2 – 27 July.

These offer our last opportunity to ensure that the treaty is robust and not just hollow law.

In the lead up to the meeting in February we are urging the leaders of the three main UK political parties to ensure that this country continues to champion robust legislation and lobby for a Treaty that:

  • Protects human rights by guaranteeing that any transfer of arms is stopped if there is evidence that they are likely to be used in violation of international human rights or humanitarian law
  • Is comprehensive so as to include all types of conventional weapons and equipment and all transfers and transactions, including those undertaken by middlemen
  • Is enforceable and transparent  to ensure all governments must adopt strong national rules and regulations and publicly report on their arms sale so they can be held accountable for their actions
  • Enters into force because, believe it or not, even once the Treaty is agreed it will only be binding if a set number of states introduce national legislation to ratify it. This number is to be determined at the final negotiations in July


Special Task Force motor bicycle unit solder guards a roadside checkpoint in Colombo �REUTERS/Buddhika Weerasinghe In July, world leaders will meet in New York to draw up an historic document: the first ever international Arms Trade Treaty. Get it wrong and we may never get another chance to put it right.

We are delighted that Labour leader Ed Miliband and now Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have responded to the thousands of emails you sent by pledging their support for a robust Arms Trade Treaty.

We want David Cameron to join Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband by publicly committing the UK to lead the way in securing a bulletproof Treaty. Please keep up the pressure.

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