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UN: Landmark Arms Trade Treaty to become reality with 50th ratification today

24th September 2014, 13:59:59 UTC

Protection for the millions of people whose lives are devastated by the poorly regulated global conventional arms trade is set to take a giant leap forward today, Amnesty International said, with the historic Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) expected to surpass the 50 ratification 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 today. Then the ATT would become international law on 25 December 2014 binding all the countries that have ratified it by then, including Ireland.

“This is a monumental 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 Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.

“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’. Thousands of people across Ireland signed petitions, wrote letters, sent emails or phoned embassies to keep up the pressure on key states like the USA. Getting the backing of supportive states like Ireland was pivotal. 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. But this can change.

The ATT has some strong rules that can be built on, 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 world’s top ten 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 ATT. There has been resistance to ratification from other major arms producers like China, Canada, Israel and Russia, so our campaign for ratification must and will continue.

“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 ratify 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 Colm O’Gorman.

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 strong human rights 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. The Irish Government was one of the treaty’s strongest supporters and played a formidable role in the UN negotiations. It was one of the first to sign and ratify the ATT. Although 41 states that supported the adoption of the treaty last year have yet to sign it, 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 human rights 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.