TAPOL – 40 years of campaigning

A British-made Stormer APC in Aceh, Indonesia
A British-made Stormer APC in Aceh, Indonesia
TAPOL, the organisation that campaigns for human rights in Indonesia, celebrated its 40th birthday last week with a reception and film screening at the Ritzy cinema in Brixton. Staff from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which has worked with TAPOL for many years, were at the reception.
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Hack Day is a happy day for CAAT data

EU arms export browser
EU arms export browser

When Ian Mackinnon proposed that CAAT hold a “Hack Day” to help enhance and improve the presentation of CAAT’s data, I was intrigued. Ian is the data programmer whose skills have enabled CAAT to convert static arms export data from the UK and the European Union into flexible and accessible formats on CAAT website.

CAAT has organised many types of gathering but this was our first Hack Day. Who would respond? Would participants have the skills to deal with the complex data?

As it happens, there was no need to worry. The excellent management and communication skills of Ian and the organising team of Joana, Louis, Jesse and Ursula had persuaded 15 enthusiasts to take a “summer” Saturday out to join us at Kings College in central London.

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“Play the budget right”

Join us in protest on the Global Day of Action on Military Spending – 15 April 2013

The UK's military spending is £39bn every year - enough to stop the cuts to the NHS. Twice.

Want to learn more? See CAAT’s press release and visit the GDAMS website.

Join one of the events taking place around the country, including our “Play the budget right” street theatre action, Old Palace Yard, Westminster (opposite the Houses of Parliament), 9am, 15 April 2013.

Don’t let Saudi Arabia get away with it!

A protester holds a CAAT placard saying "You can't do this in Riyadh".The news from Saudi Arabia that the authorities intend to surgically paralyse a young man as a judicial punishment has led to worldwide revulsion. The logic behind the punishment is that ten years earlier Ali al-Khawahir had stabbed a friend in the back resulting in his paralysis and therefore should suffer the same fate.
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Cameron takes arms dealers to India

David Cameron has just returned from yet another overseas trade mission – this time to India.

It’s been billed as the largest UK trade mission ever, with over 100 delegates – government ministers, MPs, “leaders of industry”, university grandees and assorted hangers-on. In the name of cementing trade ties we have seen Cameron playing cricket, laying wreaths and promising quicker visas for Indian students.

"Would you like to buy this Eurofighter Typhoon, sir?"
“Would you like to buy this Eurofighter Typhoon, sir?”

All this flummery rather disguises the main aim of the trade mission to flog arms to India, which in recent years has emerged as one of the world’s largest arms buyers. So it is worth having a closer look at who accompanied Cameron and what they might be selling.

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UK arming Bahrain as violence continues


On this day, two years ago, a group of Bahraini citizens gathered at the “Pearl Roundabout” to call for democratic freedoms and equal rights for the majority Shia population. They were part of the “Arab Spring”, the wave of protests that swept the region in 2011.

The ruling regime responded with violence. Peaceful protesters were met with bullets and teargas. Some of the weapons used by the police and military came from the UK.

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“The affair stinks but it doesn’t stink enough….”

Damning words from Judge Stefan Apostol. He was speaking in a courtroom in Vienna, at the conclusion of a corruption trial.

Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly
Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly. He’s laughing but we’re not – and nor are the Austrian judiciary.

Although the trial received almost no publicity in the UK, the individual on trial and the company behind his misdeeds were deeply linked with the UK.

In the dock was “Count” Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly, popularly known in Austria as “Count Ali”. Aristocratic ranks were abolished in Austria in 1919 but erstwhile aristocratic families are reluctant to give up grandiose titles which it seems work wonders in gaining entrée into certain social and business circles.
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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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CAAT’s “Alternative Nobel Prize”

The Right Livelihood Award logo
The Right Livelihood Award logo
The Right Livelihood Award is also known as “The Alternative Nobel Prize”

Last week, on Thursday 27 September, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) was awarded one of the four Right Livelihood Awards for 2012 for our “innovative and effective campaigning against the arms trade”.

Needless to say we were overjoyed about receiving the award, both for the international public recognition that it creates and the substantial cash award of 50,000 euros that comes with it. While CAAT staff had known of the award for over a week we had to stay silent as the announcement was under strict embargo. So it was a relief for us all when the Right Livelihood Awards were officially announced and we could tell the world.

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Return to Goodwin Street

Dot, Jean and Brenda outside 11 Goodwin Street, August 2012
Dot, Jean and Brenda outside 11 Goodwin Street, August 2012

At the end of May Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) moved from 11 Goodwin Street, Finsbury Park, to a more modern office in nearby Wells Terrace. I wrote a nostalgic account of CAAT’s quarter of a century in Goodwin Street, celebrating its history as the home of many peace organisations and radical groups.

And that, I thought, was that. Then I received a message from Brenda, telling me that 11 Goodwin Street was her childhood home and she would love to see it again before it was demolished. There followed another message, this time from Brenda’s sister Jean, with the same request, and as it turned out, there was yet another sister, Dot, who also wanted to visit. Good things definitely come in threes.

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