Activists putting the arms trade on trial
This morning saw the start of a private prosecution launched by anti-arms activists against two arms companies for promoting illegal torture weapons at the DSEI arms fair last September. There was a crowd of supporters to greet the activists, but neither of the arms companies in question, Magforce International or Tianjin Myway International Trading bothered to turn up for the hearing.
Following an adjournment, the date of the trial itself has been set for 26th November 2014. The case is being led by a group of individuals who were charged with obstruction related offences for protesting outside the DSEI arms fair in 2013.
Shut down DSEI
One of the accused companies, Magforce, sells weapons to countries on the Foreign Office’s list of countries with the “most serious human rights concerns”; including Central African Republic, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen. However, it’s not just Magforce and Tianjin that need to be held accountable, it’s the entire DSEI arms fair.
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Photo by Jayel Aheram
The latest world military expenditure figures show that spending is an enormous $1.75 trillion. One of the nations continuing to spend the most is the UK, which plans to spend £38 billion in 2014/15. This shows the backwards priorities of a government that is protecting its overblown military budget, at the same time as it is subjecting vital public services to drastic spending cuts.
For too long we have lived with the myth that high military spending maintains peace, creates jobs and combats terrorism. This myth is promoted by governments and the multinational arms companies that benefit from the global arms trade politically and economically.
The money and skills which are currently being wasted on needless and destructive weapons like the Trident nuclear weapons system would be far better spent on strengthening vital services and tackling the real challenges affecting our society; such as poverty, health inequality and environmental problems. Read more »
Who are the best people to teach children about science? You may say world renowned experts and professors, like Steven Hawking or Brian Cox, but you are unlikely to say opportunistic and repressive arms companies like Selex ES.
Selex ES is a major arms company that makes surveillance systems, weapon control systems and military drones. The weapons they make have contributed to global insecurity and strengthened some of the most oppressive governments in the world (including the dictatorships in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain).
Of course Selex don’t want people to see them that way; they would far rather be seen as a kind and caring technology company. That’s why they opted to become one of the chief sponsors of the Edinburgh Science Festival. Read more »
“Social reforms which involve expenditure are at a standstill; we are making drastic cuts in the supplies for education and for housing; our hospitals are seriously embarrassed; our industries are crippled; our unemployed number more than 1,500,000, and yet in the last financial year we spent more than 23 million upon armaments. No wonder the taxpayer grumbles and the financiers shakes their heads.”
- Major General Sir Frederick (Barton) Maurice in 1921 (1)
Today, Monday 14 April, we are taking action with people across the world to challenge military spending and to say it’s time to shift priorities and fund human needs, not war. Meanwhile, researchers for Selling to Both Sides: the arms trade and the First World War have been exploring debates about military spending before and after the First World War, and the parallels with today.
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The government spends thirty times more on weapons research than tackling climate change. Investing in renewable energy could provide more and better engineering jobs in a sector that supports people’s well-being, not death and destruction. But the UK government continue to waste public money on the arms trade. It’s time for this to change.
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‘Rabbit brained louts’ is what the Daily Express called ‘Young Oxford’; the Oxford Union debating society students who in February 1933 voted by a large majority of 122 that ‘this house will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country’.
© Imperial War Museum, recruitment poster 1914, by artist Lawson Wood.
Sparked by a bogus letter to the Daily Express, the right-wing papers were spitting fire and fury within days. They declared the vote ‘an outrage on the memory of those who gave their lives in the Great War’. Retired colonels, ex-Oxford men and Conservative MPs all condemned the students in no uncertain terms as ‘aliens and perverts’, ‘woozy-minded communists’ and ‘sexual indeterminates’.
So was this mass pacifism? The students were rejecting what they knew of Lord Kitchener’s famous recruiting slogan in 1915 – ‘your country needs you!’ By the 1920s, the public was questioning what the war had actually achieved. At the time of the debate, the early 1930s, the public backlash against the arms trade – popularly considered to be a cause of the war – had been growing for a decade.
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If the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has his way there will be water cannons on the streets of London by this summer.
When the Mayor announced his support for plans to allow the Metropolitan Police to use water cannon in the capital it came despite widespread public opposition. Johnson’s own consultation had only 59 responses that were in favour of bringing in water cannons, compared to 2,547 against.
The reason that so many people are concerned about the introduction of the cannons is because they are weapons. Their impact on a crowd is indiscriminate and they have been known to injure and blind those unfortunate enough to find themselves on the receiving end.
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Sylvia Boyes outside court with supporters
Yesterday CAAT supporter and anti-arms trade campaigner Sylvia Boyes was convicted for “obstructing the highway” during a protest at a the DSEI arms fair in London last September.
Over the last few weeks a number of activists have either been found not guilty or had their charges dropped, but Sylvia, 70, was fined a total of £440 for ‘obstructing the highway.’
Not only is the financial punishment totally disproportionate to the alleged ‘crime’, but it also shows the completely muddled priorities of the British legal establishment. As Sylvia said, “When you are dealing with the sale of weapons and torture instruments which are being used to hurt so many, what can I as a human being do that is proportionate with those facts?”
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Prince Charles joined Saudi Arabia’s autocratic rulers in a ceremonial sword dance. Saudi Arabia executed more than 70 people last year, mostly by public decapitation with a sword. Image: AFP/Getty
This week Prince Charles flew to Saudi Arabia and danced for its autocratic rulers. The next day Saudi Arabia and arms company BAE Systems announced they had finalised their latest multi-billion pound weapons deal.
Charles was in Saudi Arabia at the request of the UK government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. BAE’s share price was set to fall this week unless agreement could be reached on its latest sales of Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, so the UK government sent in the royals to seal the deal. As a Buckingham Palace spokesperson has said “Middle East potentates like meeting princes.”
Human rights organisations had highlighted Saudi Arabia’s appalling record on human rights and urged Charles to use his visit to promote reform. Instead he has sent a clear signal of support for repression.
Please sign CAAT’s petition to challenge the Royal Family’s complicity in arms dealing.
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Activists joined arms dealers and security men for a black tie dinner at the London Hilton Hotel
After last year’s fun and games, we didn’t expect to be welcomed into the annual ADS dinner at the London Hilton. Tickets cost over £200, and the guest list included Vince Cable, several MPs and bigwigs from all the UK’s largest arms companies. But even for an arms dealer’s dinner, the reception we got was quite surreal.
Even before the event, there was controversy. The BBC political editor Nick Robinson pulled out of giving the after dinner speech after a complaint from CAAT. And as the arms dealers arrived at the Hilton on the night, there was a lively crowd of protesters outside waving banners and chanting. Read more »