III—final provisions

Article 16 of the Protocol includes a dispute settlement clause providing for arbitration or, if the organisation of an arbitral tribunal and agreement on procedures should fail, referral to the International Court of Justice. However, parties are expressly left free to disavow this provision by reservation, and many have done so.

Articles 17 and 18 provide standard terms for signature, ratification, accession, and entry into force. ‘Regional economic integration organisations’ are authorized to sign or accede if one member state is a party to the Protocol. The Protocol entered into force on 3 July 2005, the ninetieth day after ratification or accession by the fortieth party. Ratifications have rolled in steadily every year, with five more in 2014, and, as of January 2016, the Protocol has 114 parties, including the European Union. However, many major arms manufacturing states, most notably Canada, China, Israel, Japan, the Russian Federation, and the United States, have declined to ratify or accede to the Protocol.

The most common official reason given for rejecting the Protocol has been that existing international law would suffice to control the illicit spread of firearms if it were thoroughly implemented, and therefore the international community’s efforts should be directed towards that end. Many states refuted this claim by pointing out the utter absence of a binding treaty on the subject, but thus far this argument has not moved the hold-outs, who insist that no common export and transfer standards for SALW are necessary or advisable. The United States in particular opposed the Protocol on the grounds that it might prevent the sale or transfer of small arms to those rebelling against oppressive regimes; that the regulation of ammunition would be difficult and expensive; and that the Protocol might somehow interfere with the supposed constitutional right of US citizens to own firearms.[1]

  • [1] See Robert Joseph, Statement at the 2006 UN Conference to review progress made in the implementation of the program of action to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and lightweapons in all its aspects, 27 June 2006. This last claim is simply implausible, because the Constitutionalright to bear arms, even if it included an individual right to own firearms, would not necessarily encompass the right to import foreign firearms in an unrestricted manner.
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