UN: Iran, North Korea and Syria cynically block lifesaving arms treaty
Amnesty International UK Director condemns blocking of Treaty
In a deeply cynical move, Iran, North Korea and Syria have thwarted the adoption of an Arms Treaty aimed at prohibiting states from transferring conventional weapons to countries when they know those weapons will be used to commit or facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, Amnesty International said today from the United Nations in New York.
All three countries are under some form of sanctions, including arms embargoes, and have abysmal human rights records – having even used arms against their own citizens. The atrocities they have committed are precisely the type that the draft treaty aims to prevent.
Amnesty International’s Head of Arms Control and Human Rights Brian Wood, currently in New York, said:
“While the President of the Diplomatic Conference will be able to take the draft treaty to the General Assembly for adoption during the current session, Iran, North Korea and Syria’s decision to prevent it being adopted unanimously at the treaty conference is unconscionable.
“States must move forward with adopting this treaty as soon as possible. The resolution which created this diplomatic conference envisioned that if states failed to reach consensus, the General Assembly would act on this matter. Kenya, speaking on behalf of 11 key states, has endorsed precisely this action.”
The draft treaty would obligate all governments to assess the risk of transferring arms, ammunition or components to another country where they could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Where that overriding risk is real and cannot be mitigated, states have agreed the transfer will not go forward.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen was present at the UN Conference in New York for these talks. Ms Allen said:
“It is a huge disappointment that Iran, North Korea and Syria have thwarted the adoption of the Treaty. We were tantalisingly close to achieving a Treaty that could have helped save the lives of millions. A Treaty that would have stopped the transfer of weapons and munitions into the hands of warlords, tyrants and human rights abusers.
“These states will have to look at hard at themselves as to why they have chosen to block such a Treaty.”
Amnesty International’s Senior Director of International Law and Policy Widney Brown said:
“By vetoing this historic document, Iran, North Korea and Syria demonstrate the challenges civil society and supportive governments faced during the negotiations. In campaigning for this treaty, we called upon states to save lives and reduce human suffering and, fortunately, most governments heeded the call.”
It is expected that the draft treaty will be adopted by the General Assembly during the current session, but by destroying consensus, Iran, North Korea and Syria showed how fragile these agreements are. Despite overwhelming support for the treaty, some states still use huge economic interest, the exercise of political power and even claims of sovereignty to justify acts that are patently reprehensible such as the targeting and killing of their own citizens.
There was evident overwhelming support for the treaty. The UK Government expressed their disappointment at the delay of the adoption of the Treaty by the UN. But the head of the UK delegation, Jo Adamson explained that the delay to the adoption of the Treaty is “not a failure.” She added: “Today is success deferred and deferred by not very long.”