A group from Bradford’s JustSpace community has written to over 30 companies around Yorkshire, including several from Bradford, expressing concern about their participation in the world’s largest arms fair. The DSEI weapons expo takes place every two years at the Excel centre in London’s Docklands.
Osborn Metals in Low Moor and Teladyne Technologies in Shipley both exhibited at DSEI in 2011, and are due to do so again this coming September. The potential customers they could have sold to at the fair in 2011 included a number of states linked to human rights abuses, five of whom were listed by the Foreign Office at the time as having ‘the most serious wide-ranging human rights concerns”: Columbia, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.
Many of the companies who attend DSEI are not in the business of “defence” or “security”, but profit from ongoing military conflict and human rights abuses.
JustSpace member, Caroline, said: “What I object to is the way this trade isn’t just providing weapons for armies to fight, but that it fuels the conflicts that destroy communities and kill women and children.”
In 2011 one exhibitor was ejected from the fair for advertising illegal cluster munitions, but only after MP Caroline Lucas visited the fair and revealed the activity. Despite being made illegal by international convention in 2010 cluster munitions still contaminate 24 countries, and have killed innumerable civilians.
Also in 2011, Amnesty International uncovered the sale of banned torture equipment including leg irons and other restraint devices. Among the exhibitors for 2013 are Nonlethal Technologies, the company who produced and profited from the teargas used fatally against democracy activists in Turkey.
Andrew, who took part in the letter writing, said: “After looking into which Yorkshire businesses would be attending the arms fair, I was amazed how many of their products also have civilian uses. I hope by writing these letters we can encourage them to focus their trade on more productive areas.”
JustSpace has met weekly at Desmond Tutu House on Great Horton Road for over seven years. Together they seek to explore the meaning of social justice in a faith context, and work to bring about a more just world. In the past this has ranged from campaigning against the renewal of Britain’s nuclear weapons to defending the rights of refugees and lobbying for better regulation of loan sharks and payday lenders.