Arms Trade Treaty: Newest addition to international humanitarian law discussed at Malaysia regional conference

25 March 2015

Kuala Lumpur / Geneva (ICRC) – The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) – the newest addition to international humanitarian law (IHL) – is the focus of a regional conference being held in Kuala Lumpur this week.

70 experts from over 20 countries and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from across the Asia-Pacific region have gathered for the Regional Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty and Strengthening International Humanitarian Law, organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

This is the fourth regional IHL conference organized by the ICRC in Asia since 2010 but the first it has organized on the ATT since it came into force last year. The Conference will provide a forum for exchanging ideas and points of view on the ATT and its implementation. Participants will also look at the impact of weapons availability from a humanitarian perspective, the possible benefits of becoming a party to ATT, and how to incorporate the treaty in domestic legal and regulatory frameworks.

The Conference was officially opened by Her Excellency Dato' Ho May Yong, deputy secretary-general of the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and has attracted eminent legal speakers including His Excellency Professor Dr Rahmat Mohamad, secretary-general of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization, who delivered a keynote address entitled 'Regional perspectives on the future of international humanitarian law and action.' Also speaking at the Conference are Dr Francois Voeffray, Ambassador-at-Large (Switzerland); Dr Mohamed Mahmoud Al Kamali (United Arab Emirates), vice-president of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission; Mr Yuriy Kryvonos, director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific; and Dr Gilles Giacca, ICRC legal adviser.

"2015 is an important year for IHL," said Jeremy England, head of the ICRC regional delegation in Kuala Lumpur. "This year sees the first review conference on the ATT in Mexico in a few months' time, as well as the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in December in Geneva, Switzerland. This is where all States party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions – the cornerstone of IHL – will discuss important initiatives to strengthen provisions protecting victims of war." He added that the Conference in Malaysia was an ideal platform for regional discussion and deliberation, not only on the ATT and its implications but also on key issues surrounding implementation of IHL more generally in situations of humanitarian concern.

The ATT was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in April 2013 and entered into force in December 2014. It marks a historic response to the human suffering caused by the widespread availability of weapons both during and after armed conflicts. For the first time ever in an international treaty, States must not transfer weapons or ammunition if they know that they would be used to commit war crimes. Currently 130 States have signed the ATT, thereby regulating their international transfers of conventional weapons and agreeing to make arms-transfer decisions subject to humanitarian concerns.

For further information, please contact:
Chin Lili, ICRC Kuala Lumpur, tel: +603 2084 1807 or email: lchin@icrc.org