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The ‘arms for dictators’ scandal isn’t new. It is cross-party, well-established and has been going on for too long

The British government actively promotes the Eurofighter Typhoon to foreign government. This scene comes from  the Farnborough arms fair in 2012.

The British government actively promotes the Eurofighter Typhoon to foreign governments. This scene comes from the Farnborough arms fair in 2012.

The fringe issue of arms export criteria became headline news today (17 July),  with The Independent’s splash on an “‘arms for dictators” scandal. A parliamentary report by the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) raised a few eyebrows, but the embarrassment of the government approving arms sales to 25 out of 27 of the countries blacklisted as human rights abusers will soon vanish.

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Arms companies at the Big Bang Fair

IMAG0263

Britain’s largest science and engineering fair for young people, which took place last month, was sponsored and supported by a total of five major arms companies, including the world’s third largest weapons manufacturer, BAE Systems.

General Dynamics, Rolls Royce, Thales and Selex ES also have sponsorship deals with the Big Bang Fair. As part of the deal, the arms companies enjoy a stand at the fair, from which they can promote themselves to young people.

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A tale of two committees

westminsterThe new year has brought CAAT a small but important campaign victory. For the first time, it seems that the Minister responsible for Human Rights at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) will be consulted on priority markets for promotion of arms exports.
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A day at Farnborough arms fair

Eurofighter displayOn Monday 9 July, Betsy Barkas visited Farnborough International arms fair: a major event on the arms fair calendar. It takes place every other year, alternating with the DSEi arms fair in London. This year, Farnborough ran from 9-15 July.

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A night at the museum

The Natural History Museum is not the most obvious place to have an anti-arms trade protest – but then again it’s not the most obvious place to have the official welcome reception for an arms fair either. Yet it was under ‘Dippy’, the Museum’s famous diplodocus, that delegates from Farnborough International were to be found nibbling canapes and ‘networking’ on the evening of Monday 9 July.

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Interrupting Vince Cable – a morning at the arms sellers’ symposium

UKTI DSO at the Farnborough Airshow in 2010

UKTI DSO: flogging arms with your taxes

On 26 April, Sam Walton took the stage to disrupt Vince Cable’s speech at a government arms sales conference.

We didn’t think we’d get in. The UKTI DSO Symposium is the biggest event of the year for Britain’s exporters of “defence & security” gear – so you’d think they’d have better security.

We wandered into the hotel past the police and made our way towards the entrance to the Symposium. Not having the faintest idea where anything was, we were helpfully directed to the ground floor where registration and the first networking and mingling of the day was taking place. Amazing how far a nice suit can get you.

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Wild beasts and parliamentary action

Kaye Stearman asks: “Why do MPs care so passionately about animal rights while failing to tackle issues like the arms trade?”

One night in June as I was drifting off to sleep, I was galvanised by the passionate debate being played out on the normally soporific Today in Parliament on Radio 4. The programme is noted for its erudition in the explanation of arcane bills and ministerial soundbites but to hear genuine anger and passionate advocacy is rare.

Tiger jumping through hoop

Even more surprising was that the debate was led by backbenchers and cut across partly lines. Who, I wondered, were these MPs and what was their cause. Surely it must involve an issue such as violation of human rights, poverty, famine, war or the arms trade.

Alas, it was none of these. To be fair, it did involve the rights of living beings – in this case wild animals. MPs united in support of a law that would ban lions, tigers and other wild animals from circus shows in the UK. The government had tried to impose a three-line whip, backbenchers had refused to knuckle under and a heartfelt debate on the wrongs of animal mistreatment ensued. Read more »

A poetic take on Libya

Athos Athanasiou was moved to write a poem about Libya and British arms firms’ dealings with Gaddafi. You can read more of his poetry on his blog.

On Libya

Oh just look! The papers say,
David Cameron leads the way,
in heading to the Middle East
to try and quell that fearsome beast.

But

Athos Athanasiou

what is it he’s actually doing?
Who on earth could he be wooing?
And what ends is he pursuing?
While the fighting still is brewing?

Off he trots to pave the way
for the weapons men who pay,
to have their arms contracts renewed.
They are nothing if not shrewd.

So what message is he showing?
While atrocities are growing,
and a bloody wind is blowing,
and the people’s blood is flowing,

dying from the tanks and bombers
as the arms trade pursues commerce.
For these choppers and these guns
are brought in from other lands.

British arms firms had their hand in
planes, that soldiers d’rather land in
other realms, than bomb those standing
in the squares for change demanding.

Not forgetting France and Russia,
and the others who sell Libya
all the weapons that it needs
to kill its people in the streets.

Now  the Colonel has grown madder,
and the genocide grows sadder.
Paths to peace are looking harder.
Their’s the bloodiest intifada.

But the arms firms have no let up
in protecting contracts set up
when dictators ruled the day.
Turning blind eyes once they pay.

I just hope the tide is turning,
and the city soon stops burning.
But Gaddafi isnt learning.
Freedom is what they are yearning.

The abolition of slavery in arms

Drawing of a slave

"Am I not a man and a brother" – anti-slavery image

Henry Boddington explores the parallels between the slave trade and the arms trade and explains why ending the arms trade should be a priority for today’s world. 

In 1769  the slave, James Somersett was brought to England. He was the property of Charles Steuart a customs officer from Boston Massachusetts, then a British colony in North America. Somersett ran away in 1771 but was re-captured and imprisoned upon a ship bound for the British colony of Jamaica.  However, people claiming to be Somersett’s godparents made an application before the Court of King’s Bench for a writ of habeas corpus, and the captain of the ship was ordered to produce Somersett before the Court of King’s Bench, which would determine whether his imprisonment was legal.

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The day I went to Downing Street…

CAAT petitioners in Downing Street, 9 March 2011

CAAT petitioners in Downing Street, 9 March 2011

Rhiannon Rees wrtes of her experiences as a member of a CAAT delegation presenting an anti-arms trade petition at the office of the Prime Minister.

On Wednesday, 9 March, I went with Anne-Marie, Henry and Sarah from the CAAT office, and Azeldin El-Sharif, of the British-Libyan Solidarity Campaign, to present CAAT’s ‘This is not OK’ petition at 10 Downing Street.

Nearly 4,000 people had signed the petition and posted their comments to tell the Government that selling tear gas, firearms and crowd control ammunition to Bahrain and Libya, promoting arms exports to corrupt and repressive regimes and holding one of the world’s largest arms fairs in London next September are NOT OK. Read more »