In a deeply cynical move, Iran, North Korea and Syria have thwarted the adoption of an Arms Trade 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.
“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,” said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.
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 said.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also expressed his disappointment with the failure of the Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to reach an agreement among all 193 Member States on a treaty text during the last day of the conference.
Some 2,000 representatives of Governments, international and regional organizations and civil society had gathered in New York since 18 March to hammer out the details of what was seen as the most important initiative ever regarding conventional arms regulation within the UN.
If passed, the treaty would have applied to all conventional arms within the following categories: battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large-calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, and small arms and light weapons, according to the draft text.
Armed violence kills more than half a million people each year, including 66,000 women and girls. In addition, between 2000 and 2010, almost 800 humanitarian workers were killed in armed attacks and another 689 injured, according to the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs.
The previous attempts to reach a consensus on the treaty ended without success in July 2012. In December, the UN General Assembly agreed to a final conference and set today as the deadline for the two-week negotiations.