Select this search icon to access the search form

Main menu

Facebook Share

Human Rights and the Arms Trade

    September 17, 2018

    States that are still supplying arms to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition risk going down in history as being complicit in war crimes in Yemen, Amnesty International said today, as the Spanish government prepares to make a major decision on whether to suspend the transfer of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia.

    On 4 September, the Spanish government announced that it would cancel the sale of 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, following an international outcry over an airstrike on a school bus in Yemen which killed 40 children.

    The Spanish government then reversed this decision on 12 September, citing the need to “honour a contract”. All deals with Saudi Arabia, made under the previous Spanish government, have been under review for the past few weeks and a final decision will be taken on Wednesday 19 September on whether to revoke existing licences and suspend new ones.

    September 11, 2018

    Amnesty International USA Release

    The U.S. government has allowed gun violence to become a human rights crisis, according to “In the Line of Fire: Human Rights and the U.S. Gun Violence Crisis,” a new report from Amnesty International. The report examines how all aspects of American life have been compromised in some way by the unfettered access to guns, with no attempts at meaningful national regulation.

    While most countries have licensing and regulation systems in place for firearms, the United States lacks measures like a national registration, and 30 states allow handguns to be owned without a license or permit.

    “The U.S. government is prioritizing gun ownership over basic human rights. While many solutions have been offered, there has been a stunning lack of political will to save lives,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “Despite the huge number of guns in circulation and the sheer numbers of people killed by guns each year, there is a shocking lack of federal regulations that could save thousands.”

    July 10, 2017

    A UK court ruling that the government is entitled to continue authorizing arms supplies to Saudi Arabia is a potentially deadly setback to Yemeni civilians, Amnesty International said today.

    The High Court in London dismissed a legal challenge from the NGO Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which claimed that such arms transfers should not take place because of the clear risk that the weapons supplied would be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen’s armed conflict.

    June 09, 2017

    Amnesty International USA today urged the Senate to approve a resolution to block the impending arms sale to Saudi Arabia. The Senate is expected to vote on the measure today. The deal, involving more than $500 million in weapons, would arm members of a military coalition that has attacked thousands of civilians in Yemen and violated international humanitarian law. Joanne Lin, senior managing director of advocacy and government relations, issued the following statement:

    “By selling arms to Saudi Arabia, knowing that they may well be used to kill civilians in Yemen, the U.S. government may be complicit in serious violations of international law, including war crimes,” said Joanne Lin. “The Trump Administration has repeatedly indicated a willingness to partner with Saudi Arabia despite its appalling human rights record. It is up to the Senate to stop this.”

    September 19, 2016

    Released 07:00GMT/ 08:00 London time Monday 19 September 2016

    States – including the USA and UK – must immediately stop supplying weapons that could be used in the Yemen conflict, Amnesty International said, as it confirmed that a US-made bomb was used in the air strike on a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital on 15 August which killed 11 people and injured 19 others.

    According to independent weapons experts consulted by the organization who assessed photographs of a bomb fin taken by a journalist at the site, a US-made precision-guided Paveway-series aerial bomb was used in the attack.

    “Any attack on a medical facility in a war zone is an affront to humanity, yet this bombing is sadly just the latest in a grim series of attacks on hospitals and clinics by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition,” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    August 29, 2016

    By Rasha Mohamed and Rasha Abdul Rahim

    The airstrike on Abs Rural Hospital in Yemen's Hajjah governorate on 15 August was the fourth attack on a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in 10 months. That didn't lessen the shock.

    Sixteen-year-old ambulance driver Ayman Issa Bakri was among the 10 dead. He had been working there since MSF began supporting the hospital in the summer of 2015. When his body was found near the impact site, he was still holding the woman he had been transferring from the ambulance to the A&E.

    Shortly after, MSF announced it was winding up its operations in Yemen; it is hard to imagine the despair that Yemenis feel when the only hospital for miles disappears.

    At the site of the ruined hospital, Amnesty International identified remnants of bombs that appear to have been manufactured either in the USA or the UK. This would be consistent with what we know about prolific arms exports by these countries to Saudi Arabia and other members of its military coalition.

    June 07, 2016

    The credibility of the United Nations is on the line after it shamefully caved in to pressure to remove the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition from the UN’s list of states and armed groups that violate children’s rights in conflict, Amnesty International said today.

    Last night a spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced the change to the list published on 2 June as part of an annual report by his Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. The move was a direct result of diplomatic pressure from Saudi Arabia, angry at the UN’s conclusion that coalition operations had led to the death and suffering of children in the armed conflict in Yemen.

    February 28, 2016

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT   29 February 2016

    Escalating violations, including possible war crimes, that have sparked a humanitarian crisis amid Yemen’s armed conflict will only worsen unless all states immediately impose a comprehensive embargo on arms transfers that could be used by any of the warring parties, Amnesty International warned today as a meeting on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) got under way in Geneva.

    ATT States Parties and signatories are among those who continue to supply weapons to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners for use in Yemen – in brazen violation of the treaty, in particular its human rights provisions. Arms have also been diverted into the hands of Huthi and other armed groups fighting in Yemen.

    February 02, 2016

    By Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexNeveAmnesty

    There has been considerable debate recently about the revelations that Ottawa’s Algonquin College (as well as Niagara College in Welland) has reached a lucrative deal to operate a campus in Saudi Arabia that will offer courses to men only.

    It puts a third story about Canadian connections to human rights concerns in Saudi Arabia on the public record. That unenviable statistic is, sadly, not at all surprising. Amnesty International released a briefing paper this month in which we documented a sharp deterioration in respect for human rights in Saudi Arabia over the past year, including a serious clampdown on free expression and deeply troubling findings that Saudi forces that have intervened in the conflict in neighbouring Yemen have been responsible for extensive violations, including war crimes.

    February 02, 2016

    On April 2, 2013 Canada, together with 154 other states, voted in favour of a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) at the UN General Assembly. The ATT will prohibit states from transferring conventional weapons to countries when they know those weapons would be used to commit or facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. The treaty also requires governments to assess the risk of transferring arms, ammunition or components to another country where they could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Where that overriding risk is real and cannot be mitigated, the transfer will not happen.

    At least 500,000 people die every year and millions more are displaced and abused as result of armed violence and conflict.

    December 16, 2015
    Joint Release Amnesty International UK, Saferworld, Control Arms Released 00:01GMT THURSDAY 17 DECEMBER 2015   PhilippeSands QC and others submit damning legal opinion commissioned by Amnesty International UK and Saferworld   “The UK has fuelled this appalling conflict through reckless arms sales which break its own laws and the global Arms Trade Treaty it once championed” – Kate Allen, Amnesty UK Director   The UK Government is breaking national, EU and international law and policy by supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia in the context of its military intervention and bombing campaign in Yemen according to an analysis by eminent international law experts commissioned by Amnesty International UK and Saferworld, both members of the Control Arms coalition.  
    August 26, 2015

    By Marek Marczynski, Head of Amnesty International’s Military, Security and Police team at the International Secretariat. Follow Marek on Twitter @MarekMarczynski. You can also follow discussions and developments at the ATT Conference of States Parties on Twitter via the @AmnestyATT account.

    The recent explosions that apparently destroyed a 2,000-year-old temple in the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria were yet another grim example of how the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) uses conventional weapons to further its agenda.

    But what has fuelled the IS’s growing firepower? The answer lies in recent history – arms flows to the Middle East dating back as far as the 1970s have played a role.

    After taking control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in June 2014, IS fighters paraded a windfall of mainly US-manufactured weapons and military vehicles which had been sold or given to the Iraqi armed forces.

    August 25, 2015

    As the Arms Trade Treaty's first Conference of States Parties convenes in Cancún, Mexico from 24-27 August, Amnesty International is campaigning for transparency in all aspects of the arms trade, including comprehensive state reporting on the scale and range of their arms imports and exports.

    Weapons and ammunition in circulation

    August 24, 2015

    Posted at 0501hrs GMT  24 August 2015

    The global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), created to rein in the poorly regulated international arms transfers that fuel war crimes and serious human rights abuses, will face its first major test in Mexico this week, Amnesty International said today.

    The ATT’s first Conference of States Parties, taking place in Cancún from 24-27 August, will be attended by dozens of states, including some that have neither signed nor ratified the treaty since its adoption in 2013. Amnesty International, which campaigned alongside NGO partners for more than two decades to make the ATT a reality, will also attend the meeting.

    “Cancún marks the first major test for the Arms Trade Treaty, and states will have an important opportunity to make history by following through on the treaty’s lifesaving goals,” said Marek Marczynski, Head of Military, Security and Police at Amnesty International.

    July 10, 2015

    By Marek Marczynski, Head of Military, Security and Police at Amnesty International. Follow Marek on Twitter @MarekMarczynski.

    Every year, roughly half a million people are killed by firearms, many of which have been transferred irresponsibly.

    The poorly controlled flow of arms also fuels conflicts in which millions more die because of mass displacement and loss of access to basic health care clean water and food.

    In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, it is estimated that more than five million people have died since 1998 as an indirect result of armed conflict.

    In order to address this global challenge, Amnesty International – alongside other civil society groups and victims of armed violence – advocated for an international treaty to regulate the global transfer of arms.

    We argued that arms should not be sent to places where they are likely to be used to commit serious human rights violations.

    Those massive campaigning efforts resulted in the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which came into force on 24 December 2014.


    Subscribe to Human Rights and the Arms Trade