U.S. Department of State


Fact Sheet
Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
Washington, DC
August 1, 2002

Concise Guide to the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials

Article I. - "Definitions"

For the purposes of the Convention it defines the terms: "illicit manufacturing," "illicit trafficking," "firearms," "ammunitions," "explosives," "Other related materials," and "controlled delivery."

Article II. - "Purpose"

The purpose of the convention is to prevent, combat, and eradicate illicit manufacturing and trafficking in firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials; and to promote and encourage cooperation and exchange of information and experience among states in order to prevent, combat, and eradicate the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in these items.

Article III. - "Sovereignty"

States are required to carry out the obligations under the Convention by respecting the principles of sovereignty and territory of states, and by not interfering in the internal affairs of other states. States undertake not to exercise legal authority or perform any actions in another state which are under the domestic law and jurisdiction of that other state.

Article IV. - "Legislative Measures"

States that have not done so are required to adopt necessary legislative or other measures to criminalize acts of illicit manufacturing and trafficking in firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials, as those terms are defined in the Convention. The acts that must be criminalized include participation in, association or conspiracy to commit, attempts to commit, and aiding, abetting, facilitating, and counseling in committing illicit manufacturing and trafficking.

Article V. - "Jurisdiction"

This Article obligates each State to exercise legal authority over offenses included in the Convention when committed in its territory, or when the alleged criminal is present in its territory but extradition to the country where the offense was committed is refused on the basis of the person's nationality. Article V.2 allows, but doesn't require, each state to adopt the necessary measures to establish its legal authority over such offenses when committed by one of its nationals or by a person who lives in its territory.

Article VI. - "Marking of Firearms"

This Article requires States to require, at the time of manufacture, appropriate markings of the name of manufacturer, place of manufacture, and serial number, for identification and tracing. In addition, States are required to use appropriate markings on imported firearms, including the importer's name and address, and appropriate markings on any firearms confiscated or forfeited pursuant to Article VII that are kept for official use of the State.

Article VII. - "Confiscation or Forfeiture"

States will confiscate or forfeit firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials that have been illicitly manufactured or have been part of illicit trafficking. The states must ensure that all such items do not fall into the hands of private individuals or businesses through auction, sale, or other means.

Article VIII. - "Security Measures"

States commit to adopt measures to ensure the security of firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials imported, exported, or transited through their own territories in order to eliminate loss or diversion. 

Article IX. - "Export, Import, and Transit Licenses or Authorizations"

States are required to establish or maintain an effective system of export, import, and international licenses or transit authorizations for firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials. States may not permit firearms to be exported or transited across their borders without proper licensing from the receiving and in-transit countries.

Article X. - "Strengthening of Controls at Export Points"

Each state must take necessary measures to detect and prevent illicit trafficking in firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials between its territory and that of other states by strengthening controls at export locations.

Article XI. - "Recordkeeping"

Each State is required to ensure record keeping of necessary information for a reasonable time to trace and identify illicitly manufactured and trafficked firearms so as to enable such State to comply with obligations under Articles XIII and XVII.

Article XII. - "Confidentiality"

States will guarantee confidentiality of any information they receive, if requested by the state providing the information. If confidentiality cannot be kept for legal reasons, the state providing the information must be notified before disclosure of the information.

Article XIII. - "Exchange of Information"

States will exchange relevant information on authorized producers, dealers, importers, exporters, and, whenever possible, carriers, of firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials, consistent with their own domestic laws and treaties. The Article also covers exchanges of information on means of concealment of illicit manufacturing or trafficking in those items, as well as information on routes ordinarily used by criminal organizations engaged in such trafficking. The Article also requires exchanges of information on legislative experiences, practices, and measures to prevent, combat, and eradicate such illicit manufacturing and trafficking, as well as on techniques, practices, and legislation to combat money laundering related to such offenses. Finally, the Article calls for sharing of scientific and technological information useful for law enforcement, and cooperation in tracing of illicitly manufactured or trafficked firearms and related items.

Article XIV. - "Cooperation"

States will cooperate at the bilateral, regional, and international levels to prevent, combat, and eradicate the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials. States will select a national body or a point of contact to act as liaison with other states, as well as between them and the Consultative Committee established in Article XX, in order to cooperate and exchange information.

Article XV. - "Exchange of Experience and Training"

Requires states to cooperate in constructing programs to exchange experience and training among competent officials, and to help each other in improving access to effective equipment or technology to implement the Convention. States are to cooperate with each other and with competent and appropriate international organizations to ensure that there is adequate training of personnel in their own states to eradicate arms trafficking.

Article XVI. - "Technical Assistance"

Requires states to cooperate with each other and with appropriate international organizations, so that requesting states receive necessary technical assistance to improve their ability to prevent, combat, and eradicate the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials.

Article XVII. - "Mutual Legal Assistance"

This Article contains standard mutual legal assistance provisions of the sort contained in multilateral treaties on law enforcement matters. The Article provides that the States shall provide each other with the widest possible measure of mutual legal assistance, for the purpose of helping States obtain evidence and facilitate procedures and steps necessary for the investigation and prosecution of offenses covered under the treaty.

Article XVIII. - "Controlled Delivery"

This article directs states to take necessary measures, within their domestic legal systems, to allow appropriate controlled delivery, at the international level, on the basis of agreements or arrangements mutually consented to, for the purpose of identifying persons involved in the offenses referred to in Article IV and to taking legal action against them. Decisions by states to use controlled delivery shall be made on a case-by-case basis and may take financial arrangements into consideration, as well as understandings about the exercise of legal authority by the states involved.

Article XIX. - "Extradition"

This article contains standard provisions on extradition of the sort contained in other multilateral treaties on law enforcement matters. However, Article XIX.6 is an improvement over similar provisions in other treaties because it requires that in cases where states refuse to extradite someone because that person is a national, decisions regarding their prosecution must be made under the same standards as applied if the offense had been committed in that state. The Article applies to the offenses referred to in Article IV of the Convention, and provides that each of these offenses will be considered extraditable offenses in any extradition treaty in force between or among the states. In addition, the states will include these offenses as extraditable offenses in every extradition treaty concluded between or among them in the future.

Article XX. - "Establishment and Functions of the Consultative Committee"

A Consultative Committee is established by the Treaty. This body will promote exchange of information; facilitate the exchange of information on domestic legislation and administrative procedures of the states; encourage cooperation between national liaison authorities to detect suspected illicit exports and imports of firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials; promote training and exchange of knowledge and experience among states and technical assistance between states and relevant international organizations, as well as academic studies; requesting from nonparty states, appropriate information on the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials; and promoting measures to facilitate the Convention. Decisions of the Consultative Committee will be only recommendations, and the Consultative Committee is required to keep the confidentiality of any information it receives, if requested.

Article XXI. - "Structure and Meetings of the Consultative Committee"

The Consultative Committee will consist of one representative from each state, and will hold one regular meeting each year and special meetings as necessary. The first regular meeting shall be held within 90 days after 10th OAS member states has ratified the Convention. The Consultative Committee will prepare its own rules of procedure and they will be adopted by absolute majority.

Articles XXII - "Signature"

The Convention is open for signature by member states of the OAS.

Article XXIII. - "Ratification"

The Convention is subject to ratification and instruments of ratification are to be deposited with the OAS General Secretariat.

Article XXIV. - "Reservations"

Reservations to the Convention are permitted, provided that they are compatible with the object and purposes of the Convention and that they directly relate to one or more of its specific provisions.

Article XXV. - "Entry into Force"

The Convention enters into force with the second state party’s deposit of an instrument of ratification with the OAS Secretariat. For each state ratifying after entry into force, the Convention will enter into force on the 30th day following deposit of that states' instrument of ratification.

Article XXVI. – "Denunciation"

The Convention will remain in force indefinitely, but any state Party may end its participation in the treaty by depositing an instrument of denunciation with the OAS General Secretariat. Denunciation will take effect six months after the date of deposit of the instrument, but any requests made to the denouncing state for information or assistance during those six months will be valid.

Article XXVII. - "Other Agreements and Practices"

The Convention will not prevent states from mutually cooperating under other existing or future international, bilateral, or multilateral agreements, or any other applicable arrangements or practices. States may adopt stricter measures than the Convention's if, in their opinion, such measures are desirable to prevent, combat, and eradicate the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials.

Article XXVIII. - "Conference of States Parties"

Five years after entry into force of the Convention, the OAS Secretariat will hold a conference of the states to review the functioning of the Convention and how it is being applied. Each conference will decide the date of the next conference.

Article XXIX. - "Dispute Settlement"

Any dispute which may arise about the Convention will be resolved primarily through diplomatic channels and secondarily by any other method of peaceful settlement states decide upon.

Article XXX. - "Deposit"

The OAS General Secretariat is the depositary for the treaty. The OAS General Secretariat will notify the OAS member states of signatures, deposits of instruments of ratification and denunciation, and of any reservations.


The Convention includes an "Annex," which contains a list of items that are not included in the definition of the term "explosives," such as compressed gases, flammable liquids, and explosive actuated devices such as air bags and fire extinguishers.


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