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UN Approves Arms Trade Treaty

In a landmark agreement, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which seeks to keep weapons out of the hands of would-be perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, or other war crimes. To achieve that objective, the ATT will establish regulations for the international arms trade and mechanisms for combating illicit weapons sales.

A key element of the treaty requires arms-exporting countries to assess the likelihood that transferring weapons would contribute to violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. If it concludes that the arms would be used to commit genocide and mass atrocities, then the transfer will not be authorized. The ATT also encourages signatories to work cooperatively to prevent weapons from being re-directed to parties other than the intended recipient.

“There is an urgent need to prevent those who are bent on committing the world’s worst crimes from acquiring the means to do so,” said Michael Abramowitz, Director of the Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. “To the extent that this treaty is able to block perpetrators’ access to weapons, it deserves policy makers’ full consideration.”