Document - USA: Human rights at risk in treaty talks


UA: 205/12 Index: AMR 51/062/2012 USA Date: 13 July 2012 Date: 14 January 2011


human rights At Risk in treaty talks

Human rights criteria that could save the lives of millions of people are at risk of being seriously weakened as the historic Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is negotiated at the UN in New York. Weakening these rules would mean that governments would be able to continue supplying deadly weapons to those who commit serious human rights abuses.

The US is among countries considering measures that would weaken human rights protection rules in the ATT, as governments negotiate a potentially landmark agreement to crack down on irresponsible arms transfers. President Obama’s officials have indicated that under the treaty any state considering an arms export should be entitled to use national security considerations to trump grave human rights concerns.

From 16 to 26 July, governments will discuss the criteria for arms transfers. Many governments and most US allies agree with human rights groups that the ATT should not permit arms exports where there is a substantial risk that the arms would be used to facilitate or commit serious violations of international human rights law or war crimes. However, some influential states, including the US, Russia and China, have been trying to promote weaker treaty rules. US officials have argued that in exceptional circumstances regional stability and national security criteria could trump human rights concerns. US officials also want to exclude ammunition from the treaty.

As the main arms supplier to Egypt, for instance, the US authorized the sale of small arms, millions of rounds of ammunition and chemical agents for riot control, despite the security forces’ violent crackdown on peaceful civilian protesters. If the ATT fails to include strong, binding human rights criteria, nations will inevitably exploit any loopholes. Citing national security interests, Russia could continue to supply weapons to Syria, and China could sustain its military support for Sudan, despite the substantial risk of these arms being used for war crimes and serious human rights violations.

The top six arms exporting countries – China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and US – supply over three quarters of the world’s conventional arms by value. As the world’s biggest arms trading country, and one of the permanent five members of the Security Council, the US has a special obligation to lead the talks to a successful conclusion.

Please write immediately in English or your own language:

Urging the authorities to include the “Golden Rule” on human rights in the Arms Trade Treaty, namely that arms transfers shall not be permitted where there is a substantial risk the arms are likely to be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law or war crimes

Urging President Obama to play a leading role in the historic treaty talks to stand up for human rights protection and include all types of arms transfer as well as ammunition to make the treaty “bullet proof”.


President of the United States

Barack Obama

The White House   

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20500

Fax: +1 202 456 2461

Comment Form:

Salutation: Dear President Obama

Secretary of State

Hillary Clinton

US Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington DC 20520

Fax: +1 202 647 2283

Comment Form:

Salutation: Dear Secretary Clinton

Secretary of Defence

Leon Panetta

1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington DC 20301-1000

Fax: +1 703 697 9080

Comment Form:

Salutation: Dear Secretary Panetta

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.

Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.


human rights At Risk in treaty talks

ADditional Information

Each year, the increasingly global trade in conventional arms carries an enormous human cost. Serious human rights abuses have been committed around the world using a wide range of weaponry, armaments, munitions and related material. Millions of people have been killed, injured, raped and forced to flee from their homes as a result. Irresponsible transfers of conventional arms across the world contribute to the destruction of countless lives and livelihoods.

From 2-27 July, the world’s governments are meeting at the United Nations in New York, for a month of negotiations to agree a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) – the first of its kind. Provided world leaders get the text right, this new treaty will establish strict controls on international transfers of weapons, munitions and related material under a “Golden Rule” to prevent arms transfers where they are likely to contribute to serious human rights abuses.

As we are seeing in Syria, the reckless supply of missiles, armoured vehicles, munitions and other weapons has not only enabled the widespread killing, torture and violent repression of peaceful demonstrators but has now taken Syria into civil war with thousands killed, including hundreds of children. The repercussions for the region have yet to be fully understood.

There was a similar pattern in the Arab Spring of 2011. Governments that now say they stand in solidarity with people across the Middle East and North Africa are the very same ones that until recently supplied the weapons, ammunition and military and police equipment that were used to unlawfully kill, injure and arbitrarily detain thousands of peaceful protesters.

And the problem goes on. Many of those same arms used to such brutal effect in Libya are now finding their way across the border into Mali and other countries in the region where they threaten to fuel further atrocities and abuse.

Enormous numbers of people, like those in Darfur, Sudan, have suffered the consequences of this irresponsible trade in arms for almost a decade. Indeed, the same imported tanks, transport planes, jet fighters and attack helicopters used indiscriminately against civilian areas in Darfur have more recently been turned on the civilian population of Sudan’s Southern Kordofan.

And it is not just the people of Africa and the Middle East who have suffered. From Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Bangladesh to Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, the Philippines and Guatemala, the uncontrolled trade in conventional weapons have cost the lives and livelihoods of millions of people over the past decade.

To be effective, the treaty must require governments to undertake rigorous human rights and other risk assessments before deciding whether to authorize any arms transfer or transaction, and to regularly report publicly on all authorizations and deliveries. The treaty should cover all types of arms, as well as parts and technologies to make arms, and require regulation of arms dealers, brokers and shippers. And there needs to be robust rules for strict enforcement.

Name: N/A

Gender m/f: N/A

UA: 205/12 Index: AMR 51/062/2012 Issue Date: 13 July 2012

image1.png image2.png image3.png image4.png

How you can help