Arms transfers to parties to armed conflict: what the law says

What indicators and sources of information should States take into account in their arms transfer decisions?

In the view of the ICRC, a thorough assessment of the risk that arms, ammunition or parts and components to be transferred could be used to commit or facilitate IHL violations should include an inquiry into:

 - the recipient’s past and present record of respect for IHL and human rights
 - the recipient’s intentions as expressed through formal commitments, and
 - the recipient’s capacity to ensure that the arms or items transferred are used in a manner consistent with IHL and human rights law and are not diverted or transferred to other destinations where they might be used to commit serious violations of IHL or human rights.

Supplying arms to a recipient involved in an on-going armed conflict entails a concrete and present danger that supplied arms, ammunition or parts and components could be used to commit or facilitate IHL violations. For the purposes of the arms transfer risk assessment, isolated incidents of past violations are not necessarily indicative of a recipient’s attitude towards IHL or international human rights law. However, any discernible pattern of violations, or any failure by the recipient to take appropriate steps to put an end to and adequately address past violations and to prevent their recurrence should cause serious concern. Evidence of unaddressed recent violations would normally indicate a clear risk.

The final decision should be based on an overall assessment of the situation after considering each indicator separately. Assessments should be based on all available, open- and closed-source information, including diplomatic missions in the recipient State, military-to-military exchanges, reports by UN and other agencies operating in the recipient State, media reports, reports by national human rights bodies, reports by non-governmental organisations, judgments and decisions by international and domestic judicial authorities, and the recipient’s military doctrine and instructions.

• Learn more about applying IHL and international human rights law criteria in arms transfer decisions (ICRC, Practical Guide, 2016).

Source : Icrc