The Arms Trade Treaty was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 2 April 2013 and entered into force in Switzerland on 30 April 2015. The treaty is the first of its kind to regulate the arms trade at the international level in a way that is legally binding. It obliges the states parties to establish and maintain a national control regime. They are also required to refrain from authorising the transfer of weapons where there is reason to believe that they could be used to commit acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. In addition, states parties must assess whether there is a significant risk that the exported arms are being used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law or human rights and, if so, refuse the request for export.
At the First Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty, which was held in August 2015 in Mexico, the participants chose Geneva as the seat of the permanent secretariat. Today, Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter signed two documents to that effect. The Federal Council's decision to conclude a headquarters agreement conferring on the Secretariat the same privileges and immunities normally granted to intergovernmental organisations is based on the Host State Act. The second document pertains to Switzerland's financial contribution to the Secretariat as part of its administrative support whereby Switzerland has offered to finance office space and administrative support services.
The Arms Trade Treaty serves Switzerland's interests in terms of foreign, security and economic policies. It reinforces Switzerland's traditional role as an advocate for humanitarian causes and as a guardian in particular of international humanitarian law and an active peace policy. With its base in Geneva, the Secretariat of the Arms Trade Treaty will likewise be able to benefit from valuable synergies with other international organisations that are headquartered in Switzerland. It also highlights and strengthens the role played by Switzerland and International Geneva in promoting respect for and compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights.
The Second Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty will take place in August 2016 in Geneva.
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