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ICRC position on scope of an Arms Trade Treaty

03-03-2009 Statement

ICRC statement on scope of an Arms Trade Treaty, open-ended working group towards an arms trade treaty, New York, 3 March 2009.

In its 1999 study on arms availability and the situation of civilians in armed conflict, the ICRC found that the availability of conventional weapons facilitated violations of IHL and hampered the delivery of assistance to victims. Since the late 1990s, the ICRC has urged States to develop strict controls on conventional arms transfers at the national, regional and global level to achieve consistent approaches to responsible arms transfer decisions. In the view of the ICRC, an ATT should be a comprehensive global treaty that defines common binding standards for international arms transfers, building on States’ responsibilities under international law, including international humanitarian law.

In order to ensure comprehensive coverage of all international arms transfers and reduce the human suffering resulting from the uncontrolled availability of weapons, transfers of all conventional weapons and their ammunition must be covered in an ATT. It is particularly important to include small arms and light weapons among the conventional weapons covered by an AU.

An ATT should regulate conventional arms and ammunition transfers as these are defined in existing IHL and arms control treaties. Conventional arms and ammunition transfers are, in addition to the physical movement of arms and ammunition into or from national territory, the transfer of title to and control over the arms and ammunition. The ICRC considers that acts such as transit, trans-shipment, loans and leases are covered by this definition, and in any event should fall within the scope of an ATT in order to ensure that this treaty is as comprehensive as possible.

An ATT should also regulate conventi onal arms and ammunition brokering and closely associated activities, as defined by the Group of Governmental Experts’ 2007 report. Authorization of brokering and closely associated activities should be based on the same criteria as those applicable to arms transfers by States.