Arms Trade Treaty Blocked by Iran, Syria and North Korea, for Now.
On Thursday March 28th, Iran, Syria and North Korea blocked the adoption of the first international treaty to regulate the $70 billion global arms trade when diplomats from 179 countries were ready to approve the text. But there is still hope for it yet.
Consensus on the text of the treaty was a rule required by the negotiating conference. This disagreement resulted in the treaty text needing to be put before the UN General Assembly for approval. It could be as early as this coming Tuesday that the UN General Assembly will take up the text, most likely in current form, and will approve it with a large and overwhelming majority, which will include the US.
According to the UK delegate this is only “success deferred, and not deferred for very long.” After the presumed passing of this vote, the treaty will then be opened for signatures and ratifications in June, with 50 ratifications required to enter into force.
Diplomats have considered four different texts over the past ten days. Belarus, China, France, Japan, Uruguay, the United Kingdom and a few other countries were part of a drafting committee that came up with the final draft.
The treaty establishes that some arms transfers are always wrong and therefore should always be prohibited. With this, international arms control law is taken to a new level. Weapons cannot ever lawfully be used for grave war crimes such as attacks against civilians, genocide and crimes against humanity.
One section of the draft, for example, deals with the problem of criminal gangs, terrorist groups, governments under a UN arms embargo, or diversion. It refers to the process where weapons of a legitimate deal fall into the hand of unauthorized users on the black market.
Iranian U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee criticized the failure of the treaty to ban sales of weapons to groups that commit “acts of aggression” and hereby referring to rebel groups.
As most treaties or drafts of treaties, this draft contains flaws too, and not perfect. Nevertheless, it uses human rights language for a treaty that is about arms control and therefore breaks new normative ground . While this treaty will neither end armed conflicts and human rights abuses, nor will it put a stop to rape or the recruitment of child soldiers, it will make it impossible for arms dealers to assert that they haven’t broken international law when importing weapons into countries where crimes against humanity are being committed.