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An Arms Trade Treaty: as urgently needed as ever

28-07-2012 News Release

Geneva/New York (ICRC) – The United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, which ended on 27 July in New York, failed to reach agreement on a treaty that would regulate the global trade in arms. The conference did, however, demonstrate that an overwhelming majority of States support a norm requiring States not to transfer conventional weapons to those who are likely to use them to commit war crimes or serious violations of international human rights law

"The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is disappointed that States were unable to adopt an Arms Trade Treaty as hoped," said Peter Herby, the head of the Arms Unit at the ICRC. "In our view, the text of the final draft treaty presented by the President of the Diplomatic Conference, Ambassador Roberto García Moritán was a strong response to the humanitarian problem and a reasonable compromise."

That text would have required States Parties to assess the risk that the conventional arms and ammunition they transfer would be used to commit serious violations of humanitarian law and human rights law – and to deny a transfer if an overriding risk exists. This assessment criterion is one of the main provisions that the ICRC has been advocating.

"An effective Arms Trade Treaty that protects civilians from the devastating consequences of inadequately regulated arms transfers remains as urgently needed as ever," Mr Herby stressed. "Indeed, it remains a humanitarian imperative. The ICRC is committed to continuing to work with States, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, as well as with the United Nations and other organizations, to ensure that a robust Arms Trade Treaty is adopted in the near future."

As long as arms transfers remain insufficiently regulated, people will continue to suffer the consequences, which are incalculable. The ICRC calls on all States to implement, on a national and regional basis, the strict measures they were prepared to adopt in New York and to conclude negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty as a matter of urgency.

The ICRC has been calling for strict controls on international arms transfers since 1999, following a study requested by States party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. The study, which was based on the ICRC's field experience, demonstrated that unregulated availability of weapons could exacerbate existing tensions, facilitate the indiscriminate use of weapons and increase civilian casualties. The absence of strict controls also makes it easier to commit violations of humanitarian law and threatens the provision of humanitarian assistance.

For further information, please contact:
Philippe Stoll, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 31 40 or +41 79 536 92 49