Our friends at Arms Dealers on Trial have made this excellent and inspiring film about their attempts to hold arms dealers from the DSEI arms fair to account for the promotion of illegal torture weapons.
In this blog anti arms trade writer and campaigner Nicholas Gilby, author of Deception in High Places – A History of Bribery In Britain’s Arms Trade, analyses misconceptions about the arms trade treaty.
The Arms Trade Treaty came into force on 24 December 2014. At the time of writing the Treaty has been signed by 131 states and ratified by 61. I want to try and clear up some misconceptions about the Treaty that have been aired in the commentaries surrounding its the entry into force.
Will the Arms Trade Treaty prohibit the sale of arms which might be used to violate human rights?
The short answer is no.
The Arms Trade Treaty sets out criteria for when arms exports should be prohibited (Article 6) and the criteria which should be used when deciding whether other arms exports should be permitted (Article 7).
It was a surreal sight to see Foreign Secretary William Hague posing with Hollywood’s most famous couple, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at the recent high profile Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.
So let’s take a look at Hague’s record on conflict prevention.
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.
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?”
Challenging arms dealers in London and Seoul
This week I watched a video that really made my day. It was made by activists in South Korea who had taken action against the ‘Seoul International Aerospace & Defence Exhibition’ – also known as the ADEX arms fair.
The video made me the happiest I’ve felt in a long time about taking action against the arms trade. This wasn’t just because it was a great video with impressive actions, catchy music and a cheeky cameo by Arnie Schwarzenegger, but rather because as I was watching it, quite a few of the actions were familiar to me.
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. Continue reading “Bradford activists contact Yorkshire exhibitors at world’s largest arms fair”
In the new year, I signed up for the East London Half Marathon, to be held on 14 April. It was 13.2 miles; the farthest I’ve ever run. I started volunteering in the office of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) when the DSEI arms fair came to East London in 2011, so with the arms dealers returning this autumn and some exciting plans afoot to disrupt the 2013 DSEI arms fair, it seemed appropriate to be raising money and running in the East End.
I was very excited, and spent most of February and March running around Hackney in thermal running tights, and enthusiastically describing new knee stretches I’d learnt to my friends in the pub. (They were not impressed.)
In my head, I was a running super hero, an athlete, and destined for sporting greatness. Or at the very least, destined for a souvenir T-shirt. Continue reading “The loneliness of the half marathon runner”
On 9 July, arms dealers gathered for a breakfast briefing which promised “to help you expand your network of contacts” and “promote your business”.
It is part of a series of gatherings which let arms dealers meet with each other and their customers. These events set the agenda for the UK’s exorbitant military spending and are where arms deals are born.
But campaigners from Stop the Arms Fair were there to stop it and sat in the entrance refusing to allow the arms dealers to pass. The hour long event was delayed for over half an hour and the General who was to speak at the event had to be “kept away”.
Stop the Arms Fair has published a great write-up of the action. Read it here.
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.
Continue reading “Don’t let Saudi Arabia get away with it!”