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Adopting an effective Arms Trade Treaty: a humanitarian imperative

01-07-2012 News Release

Geneva (ICRC) – On 2 July, UN Member States will be gathering for four weeks in New York to negotiate the adoption of an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will participate in the Diplomatic Conference and will be pushing for the adoption of a strong and effective treaty.

"Through its work to assist and protect victims during and after armed conflicts, the ICRC is witness to the human cost of the widespread availability and misuse of conventional weapons," explains Peter Herby, the Head of the Arms Unit at the ICRC. "By conventional weapons, we mean all weapons that are not nuclear, biological or chemical". Herby continues: "We are convinced that an effective Arms Trade Treaty would save lives, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian and medical assistance, and strengthen compliance with international humanitarian law."

Under the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, all States have an obligation to ensure respect for international humanitarian law. This means they must ensure that the arms and ammunition they transfer do not end up in the hands of people who may be expected to use them in violation of international humanitarian law. To achieve this, the Arms Trade Treaty being negotiated in New York should require States to assess whether the weapons they are transferring will be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law. The treaty should prohibit transfers when there is a clear risk of that happening.

"Conventional weapons of every kind can be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law," says Peter Herby. "For this reason, the treaty should cover transfers of all such weapons, and their ammunition."

This month’s Arms Trade Treaty negotiations are an historic opportunity to reduce the incalculable human costs of easy access to conventional arms and ammunition. It is now time for governments to renew their commitment to the Geneva Conventions by adopting strict rules on international transfers of conventional weapons.

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