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.
DSEI isn’t just any old trade show, it’s more like a theme park for arms dealers. It brings together some of the world’s most deadly arms manufacturers and some of the most abusive regimes. Lots of business is done between those who torture civilians, and those who sell them weapons to do so.
However, DSEI isn’t something the UK government is ashamed of, on the contrary they think it’s something to be celebrated. Boris Johnson is a significant backer of it, and Defence Secretary Philip Hammond described it as “an excellent example of the opportunities that we can create when government and industry work together, hand-in-hand, with a shared objective.”
Putting the arms trade on trial
We fully support the campaigners and hope that this prosecution can set a precedent and provide a positive step towards raising public awareness and discrediting the DSEI arms fair, with a view to stopping it for good.
One of the injustices of this trial is that is has fallen to determined individuals to finally put hold the arms companies accountable. The regulatory bodies with responsibility for arms control have chosen not to prosecute, this is despite clear evidence that crimes had been committed, and an unequivocal statement from the organisers of the arms fair to that effect.
Unfortunately the establishment is too busy pulling out all stops to promote arms sales to dictators. Only last month Prince Charles was doing a sword dance with the brutal dictatorship in Saudi Arabia to seal a deal on arms exports. When it comes down to a battle between brave and principled activists or a complicit arms-dealing government then we will always stand full-square behind the protesters.
To find out more about how you can support the activists please visit: http://armsdealersontrial.wordpress.com/