USA's signing of Arms Treaty at UN General Assembly tomorrow welcomed

World’s largest arms dealer has ‘mixed record’ on weapons sales

Following reports that US Secretary of State John Kerry will sign the international Arms Treaty tomorrow morning on the side-lines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty commented:

“This is a milestone towards ending the flow of conventional arms that fuel atrocities and abuse. The US is the world’s largest arms dealer, but has so far had a mixed record of suspending arms supplies on human rights grounds.

“We now need to see this commitment by the US - and the 86 other countries that have signed the Arms Treaty - matched by action. They must implement the Treaty and bring to an end the supply of weapons to countries where they would be used to commit or facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or other serious human rights violations.

“The tragic situation in Syria underlines the horrific human cost of the reckless global Arms. The Arms Treaty is the opportunity to prevent such human suffering in the future. Governments must seize this once in a lifetime opportunity. The world is now waiting for China and Russia to match the US commitment.”

Salil Shetty is available for interview from the United Nations in New York, where he is due to address a high-level event on the Arms Treaty tomorrow.  Amnesty’s other experts on the Arms are available from London.

Key facts and figures
*The USA accounts for around 30% of conventional arms transfers in terms of value - supplying arms to more than 170 countries - by far the largest in the world.

*As the main arms supplier to Egypt, the USA has authorised the sale of small arms as well as millions of rounds of ammunition and riot-control chemical agents despite the security forces’ violent crackdown on protesters since 2011.

*The USA has also supplied Yemen with small arms, chemical agents and armoured vehicles; and supplied Bahrain with small arms. Elsewhere, the US Department of State has continued to provide the Colombian security forces with arms through US military aid and training, despite persistent violations of human rights by the Colombian security forces.

*On average at least half a million people die every year as a result of armed violence and conflict, and millions more are displaced or suffer human rights abuses

*To date, 86 countries have signed the ATT. Many, including key arms-producing countries in the European Union, are in the process of ratifying the ATT. Shortly after 50 countries have ratified the treaty it will enter into force.

The Arms Treaty was adopted at the United Nations General Assembly in April this year. Since the early 1990s Amnesty has campaigned for robust, legally-binding global rules on international arms transfers to stem the flow of conventional arms and munitions that fuel atrocities and abuse. Amnesty believes that the Arms Treaty represents a significant step towards this goal and provides a firm foundation to better regulate the international flow of weapons. The ATT prohibits states from transferring conventional weapons to countries when they know those weapons would be used to commit or facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. The Treaty also obligates 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.

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