UN officials hail entry into force of landmark global arms trade treaty

nited Nations officials are welcoming the entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty, ATT, hailing it as a new chapter in collective efforts to bring responsibility, accountability and transparency to the global arms trade.

“From now on, the States which are party to this important treaty will have a legal obligation to apply the highest common standards to their international transfers of weapons and ammunition,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement issued ahead of the instrument’s entry into force from today, (Wednesday).

The ATT, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 2nd April 2013, is the first legally-binding multilateral agreement that prohibits States from exporting conventional weapons to countries when they know those weapons will be used for genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. As of 23rd December, 60 States had ratified the treaty, and 130 had signed it, indicating that they intended to ratify.

Ultimately, the ATT, the UN Chief said, attests to “our collective determination to reduce human suffering by preventing the transfer or diversion of weapons to areas afflicted by armed conflict and violence and to warlords, human rights abusers, terrorists and criminal organisations.” He added that it is critical to continue to promote universal participation in the ATT by encouraging all States, particularly major arms exporters and importers, to join the treaty.

With this in mind, I call on those States who have not yet done so, to accede to it without delay.” Calling it a breakthrough in curbing human rights violations and reducing human suffering, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, hailed the treaty for establishing the highest possible common international standards for regulating the international trade in conventional arms.

“The lax regulations covering the trade in conventional weapons and the consequent widespread availability and misuse of arms have had a huge human cost. The unregulated arms trade is one of the main drivers of armed conflict and violence, contributing and facilitating the commission of human rights and humanitarian law violations,” he said in a statement.

“The ATT is a tool for States to prevent the violence and insecurity resulting from the flow of arms, and in so doing to fulfil their human rights obligations,” he said, calling on all States that have not ratified the ATT to do so and to apply the treaty’s provisions to the broadest range of conventional arms.

High Commissioner Zeid reiterated that States that are party to the ATT should not authorise any transfer if they have knowledge that the arms would contribute to genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. If there is an overriding risk that exported arms could be used to commit or facilitate a serious human rights violation or a serious violation of international humanitarian law, then such transfers should be stopped.

Meanwhile, a group of independent UN human rights experts said that while the ATT is a very important step to peace and security, numerous ambiguities remain in the text that could end up supporting the arms industry.