Arms Export Bans



The United States of America is the world’s largest exporter of arms – its customers, many of them allies, hold U.S. technology in high regard – the gold standard against which all other countries are judged. Similarly, many around the world consider the U.S. export control regime as one of the most careful, responsible and transparent among arms exporting countries. As a leader in this realm and in many others, the U.S. has an outsized responsibility to ensure that weapons transfers aren’t used to violate human rights.

Amnesty International is calling for an end to arms sales to a number of countries – many are specified, along with the evidentiary basis for our recommendation – in the attached briefs. But we are also calling for a deep reform of the system that allowed these exports to move forward in the first place.

This isn’t a niche issue. A Department of State OIG report, released in Spring 2020, lays bare the deficiencies in the U.S. arms export control regime. It claims the Department. of State failed to properly take human rights concerns into account in approving an “emergency” arms sale to Saudi Arabia.

In Yemen, the Saudi Arabia and UAE-led coalition, locked in a years-long conflict with Huthi rebels, have conducted countless airstrikes. Their armament of choice includes numerous precision-guided munitions manufactured in the U.S. and exported to Saudi Arabia and the UAE with the U.S. government’s blessing. Among these airstrikes, the world has witnessed the Saudi Arabia Air Force strike a school bus with 51 civilians (49 of them children) with U.S.-made MK-82 precision guided munitions. The aftermath of these, and many other similar incidents, paints a damning picture for the vaunted U.S. arms export control regime.

Yemen is just one example, though. We see arms sold to Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, who is responsible for thousands of extrajudicial executions in his campaign against so-called “drug dealers” – these are people’s sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers.

In Israel, Amnesty International has been calling on all states to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, as well as on Palestinian armed groups, with the aim of preventing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by all sides.

In Cameroon, the security forces have been linked to widespread and egregious human rights violations in the government’s counter insurgency against the armed group Boko Haram in the Far North region and in response to unrest in anglophone South West and North West regions. Violations have included torture, extrajudicial executions, and arbitrary detention, all committed with near blanket impunity.  

In Ethiopia, the security forces under the administration of Prime Minister Abiy and his two predecessors: Hailemariam Desalegn and Meles Zenawi were responsible for  extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detention and regularly used excessive force to break up nonviolent protests organized by members of the Oromo  and Amhara communities as well as other ethnic groups. All three administrations have yet to establish accountability for the abuses dating back to 2012.

Nigeria’s police and military have committed  systematic and systemic human rights violations with impunity dating back to before the start of the 4th Republic in 1999.  Abuses include extrajudicial executions, torture, disappearances, the bombing of camps for refugees and internally displaced persons, the use of child soldiers, detention of children, rape and sexual assault, and wholesale destruction of property and livelihoods. Despite reports from over a dozen government investigations into abuses by security forces,   none of the recommendations from any of the investigations have been enacted, reports from several investigations have never been published, and no command officers have ever been held accountable.          

Prior to the coup d’état by the military on August 18, overall  security in Mali was already deteriorating badly, with intercommunal conflict spreading. In response to attacks from armed groups, the Malian security forces committed human rights abuses with impunity, including extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrest, and the  use of excessive force against nonviolent protestors.      

In public, U.S. government officials decry these violations and call for accountability, but when it comes to arms sales, the world can see that money matters more than justice.


End U.S. arms sales to the following countries due to egregious human rights violations:

●   Saudi Arabia

●   UAE

●   Egypt

●   Israel

●   Cameroon

●   Ethiopia

●   Nigeria

●   Mali

●   Philippines


Philippe Nassif

Advocacy Director, Middle East & North Africa

(202) 768-5547

[email protected]