Amnesty International is hailing the flurry of activity by United Nations member states to sign and ratify the global Arms Trade Treaty before it goes into effect next week.
The rights watchdog says this is a clear sign of overwhelming support for what it says is a historic move to rein in the irresponsible international arms trade.
Andorra, Israel and Zimbabwe signed the ATT Thursday, joining several others which signed and ratified the treaty earlier this month, bringing the total number of signatures to 128, of which 60 have ratified.
South Africa is also expected to ratify the treaty at the UN. States that have ratified will now become states parties to the treaty.
“If its ratified and implemented, it will stop the illicit trade in weapons, arms and ammunition which contributes and facilitates violations of human rights, crimes against humanity and genocide from happening,” said Marek Marczynski, Head of Military, Security and Police at Amnesty International.
“World leaders are sending an unequivocal message. This virtual stampede of new states rushing to join the Arms Trade Treaty is another clear vote of confidence for this ground-breaking measure that will protect human rights and save countless lives.”
“The treaty is important because it curbs the illicit trade of arms the world over, especially when you look at the damage being done arms being sent illegally
He said the fact that countries like Israel, a major arms exporter and importer, and South Africa, the African continent’s largest arms trader, are still signing and ratifying before the treaty even comes into force, will strengthen its global impact.
"The more states get on board the treaty, the more it will shine the light of transparency into the murky waters of the international arms trade. Strict implementation of this treaty has the potential to save millions of lives and reduce the risk of serious human rights abuses around the world,” said Marczynski.
Five of the top 10 arms exporters – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK – have already ratified the ATT. The USA, by far the largest arms producer and exporter, is among 68 countries that have signed but not yet ratified the treaty.
Other major arms producers like China, Canada and Russia have resisted signing or ratifying the ATT. North Korea, Iran and Syria are the only three states that voted against adopting the treaty at the UN General Assembly.
Amnesty International and its supporters have lobbied and campaigned relentlessly for an ATT since the mid-1990s.
The treaty will become binding international law on 24 December, after which it will require states to adhere to strict global rules on international arms transfers to stem the flow of conventional arms and munitions that fuel atrocities and abuse.
“If a country signs a treaty, basically what it says to the international community is that they want to be bound by the objectives and the purpose of the treaty,” said Marczynski. “They are not allowed to act in a way that defeats the purpose and objective of that treaty.”