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DSEI protesters should be congratulated, not punished

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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’ dance of shame

Charles dressing for a 'sword dance'

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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Gatecrashing an arms dealer’s dinner

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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 »

Putting human rights at the heart of Scottish foreign policy

So far the debate in Scotland has focused on how the status quo can be maintained

So far the debate in Scotland has focused on how the status quo can be maintained

One of the most positive contributions to the independence debate has been the Scottish Government’s recent commitment to a ‘do no harm’ exports policy in the event of a Yes vote.

Last month the Scottish Government’s Minister for External Affairs and International Development, Humza Yousaf, wrote a well received blog for The Herald that presented the Scottish Government’s vision in contrast with the current UK one, saying “our good work globally will not be undermined by the selling of arms to some of the world’s most brutal dictators as has been done by previous UK governments.”

I was very impressed, but I wanted to know more about which governments Yousaf and his colleagues see as ‘brutal dictators’ and which they see as potential partners. The UK’s links with regimes that abuse human rights are well known, so I contacted Yousaf on Twitter to ask him to clarify what criteria the Scottish Government would hope to apply in an independent Scotland.

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