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Arms Trade Treaty – UN human rights experts urge all States to ratify it and consider disarmament

Arms treaty / Non-state entities

23 December 2014

GENEVA (23 December 2014) – A group of United Nations human rights experts urged all Governments around the world to ratify the landmark United Nations Arms Trade Treaty that will enter into force tomorrow. So far, only 60 out of the 130 Treaty signatories have ratified it.*

The UN Arms Trade Treaty 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.

“The entry into force of this Arms Trade Treaty is a very important step to peace and security,” the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and countering terrorism, Ben Emmerson, said. “However, further consideration on the issue of prohibiting the sale of weapons to non-state entities is needed and a subsequent agreement should address outstanding issues that were left out in the final compromise.”

“Terrorist attacks have become more and more atrocious by the kind of weapons they acquire. This needs to end,” the expert added, noting that numerous ambiguities remain in the text of the treaty which could end up supporting the arms industry. “Nothing in the treaty forbids selling weapons to non-state entities. States must intensify their efforts for disarmament in protecting the right to life and physical security.”

Human rights expert Elzbieta Karska, who currently heads the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries, noted that the prohibited activities of mercenaries, which have threatened peace and security in various regions, have also relied heavily on the proliferation of arms and weapons. “This treaty is a welcome avenue to curbing the provision of arms to illicit actors such as mercenaries,” she said.

“Ratifying this treaty will also assist States in regulating non-state entities such as private military and security companies –which often carry and use arms in their line of work– and ensuring compliance with international law,” Ms. Karska added.

“The Arms Trade Treaty is a significant first step with the potential to reduce the atrocious human cost of the trade in conventional weapons and the conflicts such weapons exacerbate, the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, stated.

“Undoubtedly, this treaty constitutes an historic moment toward the goal of meaningful disarmament and the reduction of hostilities,” Mr. de Zayas said. “More important than this treaty on regulation of the arms trade are efforts at reduction of weapon stockpiles worldwide and ongoing disarmament negotiations that must be pursued in good faith, especially in the field of nuclear disarmament.”

The Independent Expert noted that progress on the implementation of this convention would give momentum to the movement to draft and adopt a convention banning nuclear weapons, as proposed by several Delegations at the Third Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons held early December in Vienna.

“Such weapons violate the principles of distinction and proportionality – two pillars of international humanitarian law – and pose the greatest danger to the survival of the human species,” Mr. de Zayas stressed.

“The world needs to stop not only the trade in, but also the profit-driven production of, all arms since once weapons have been produced, there is a strong incentive to make sure they are put to use somewhere in the world, so as to continue producing them,” the human rights experts underscored.

The experts proposed conversion strategies so as to gradually recycle resources and manpower to peacetime enterprises that create jobs and contribute to social justice. “Efforts, as well as resources, ought to be moved from the rational of armed conflict and instead be shifted toward the advancement of peace and the promotion all human rights,” they added.

(*) Check the status of ratifications:

The UN independent experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism:
The Working Group on the use of mercenaries:
The Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order:

Check the Arms Trade Treaty facts:

Read the High Commissioner’s statement: Zeid hails entry into force of landmark global arms trade treaty -
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