Arms dealers are busy people. If they’re not burning the midnight oil securing the next dirty deal, they are likely schmoozing and networking at fancy industry events and receptions, dining on three-course meals, feasting on banquets and enjoying the company of other high net worth individuals.
And the story was no different last month, on Wednesday 22nd January, when arms dealers convened at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House hotel for the annual Aerospace, Defence and Security (ADS) dinner, which brings together arms dealers, MPs and military personnel to schmooze, swill champagne, and feast on expensive food. At the same time, 14 million Yemeni people are at risk of famine, starved as a result of the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing of their country. Many of the bombs are made by the arms companies present, and have been sold with the support of the politicians in attendance.
Over 100,000 people are estimated to have been killed since war in Yemen broke out in 2015, including 12,000 civilians in directly targeted attacks. The war in Yemen has caused one of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. The UK government is directly involved in causing this suffering; only legal action from CAAT has forced the government to review arms sales to Saudi. Meanwhile, UK-made planes are dropping UK-made bombs in Yemen, and UK arms sold to Turkey have been used in the decimation of the Kurds. UK arms sales fuel death, destruction and violence across the globe.
A number of activists and came together on a bitingly cold January night to make our resistance known. As well as chants and songs, messages of solidarity were read out, reminding us of why it is imperative we insist to those dining that they cannot eat in peace, whilst being responsible for suffering and wickedness.
The people United Will never be Defeated!
As with previous years, ADS has managed to keep the guest list a tight-lipped secret, meaning as yet we are not clear on the exact politicians and representatives who attended, however, we were thrilled to successfully dissuade Clare Balding from being this year’s keynote speaker, to the dismay of a few attendees (see: #ClareFail on Twitter).
Other highlights of this year included the presence of young people from Woodcraft folk dressed as Grim Reapers, in-keeping with our ‘dining with death’ theme. We also riled up a few arms dealers on their cigarette breaks, who were insistent that actually they are ‘reasonable human beings’ working in ‘engineering’.
Shame Shame Shame on you!
Nothing much is certain in these uncertain times, but we can guarantee that so long as arms dealers dine in London annually, we’ll be right there challenging them, adding an awkward – if not bitter – taste to their banquet.
Blog post written by Siana – Training & Events Co-ordinator at Campaign Against Arms Trade
Want to see more images from our ADS dinner action last month? Check out the full album on Facebook by clicking here: ADS 2020 Album
Thank you for every petition you signed, every gift you gave, every action you took part in this year. Here are some of the year’s highlights in our fight together for a more just and peaceful world.
Reasons to feel hopeful in 2020
1. CAAT win at the Court of Appeal
On 20 June, CAAT won its appeal against the UK government’s decision to license the export of military equipment to Saudi Arabia. The Court of Appeal concluded that it was ‘irrational and therefore unlawful‘ for the Secretary of State for International Trade to have granted licences without making any assessment as to whether violations of international humanitarian law had taken place.
As a result of this landmark decision, the government must retake all decisions to export arms to Saudi in accordance with the law. It has stopped issuing new arms exports licences to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait and Egypt, for use in Yemen
The Government is appealing the Court’s decision, so we will bring you news when we have it. In the meantime, 57 applications for export licences under consideration at the time of the ruling mean hundreds of millions of pounds of arms sales remain on hold, and a new £10 billion deal for the sale of 48 more BAE Systems’ Eurofighter Typhoon jets, agreed in March 2018, has not yet been finalised.
2. DPRTE arms fair on the run
The Government-backed Defence Procurement, Research, Technology & Exportability (DPRTE) arms fair was successfully chased out of Birmingham’s NEC in March, having already been forced out of Cardiff following protests.
Activists from the peace movement, trade unions, and Yemeni and Palestinian groups came together to plan a day of creative action that was never needed. The threat of protest was enough for the event to be moved away from scrutiny and behind military wire at Farnborough.
The arms fair will be at the Farnborough International Exhibition & Conference Centre again in 2020. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org and join the campaign to shut them down.
3.Our resistance is global
Fellow activists around the world have been taking incredible inspiring actions. Thanks to creative non-violent action by Auckland Peace Action and its allies, New Zealand’s Weapons Expo has now been cancelled, chased out of three host cities – Auckland, Wellington and Palmerston!
Meanwhile in Japan, activists organised a huge rally and die-in outside the first ever ‘DSEI Japan’ arms fair in Chiba in November. Arms trade events were banned under Japan’s constitution until a few years ago, when a change made by the Government allowed the sale and transfer of arms.
4. European worker solidarity with Yemen
Saudi state-owned ship the Bahri-Yanbu was met with protests as it tried to dock in European ports this year, as workers stood in solidarity with the people of Yemen. While French President Emmanuel Macron defended the right to sell arms to the Saudi regime, French activists blockaded the port of Le Havre for two days in May, forcing the Saudi ship to set sail without its military cargo on board.
Later that month the Saudi state faced more embarrassment as workers in Marseille refused to load another state-owned ship, the Bahri Tabuk, with military equipment destined for Yemen.
At the Bahri-Yanbu’s next port, Genoa, Italian dock workers joined forces with unions and campaigners including Potere al Popolo (Power to the People), and refused to load the ship. The group released a statement saying “We will not be complicit in what is happening in Yemen.” Power to the People indeed.
5. DSEI Week of Action
In September, LGBTQIA+ activists, green groups, people of faith, migrant groups and many more came together to resist the world’s largest arms fair coming to London. Each day was themed around a different issue linked to the arms trade from Borders to Climate Justice, because in the words of Audre Lorde, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” The struggle against the arms trade must be anti-racist, anti-capitalist, antipatriarchal, and actively centring those most directly affected by its devastating consequences.
During seven days of action, the roads outside the Excel centre saw hundreds of people using their bodies to block delivery of military equipment. As well as direct action there were faith meetings, Palestinian dabka dancing, solidarity protests with Rojava and Hong Kong, a play led by the young activists of Advocacy Academy, music, film screenings and much more.
6. Kurdish solidarity action against Brighton arms factory
7. A bumper year for institutions ditching unethical sponsors
2019 saw huge wins for the movement for ethical sponsorship. Art Not Oil successfully persuaded The Festival of Making to drop British arms company BAE Systems as its main sponsor, and lesbian magazine Diva dropped BAE’s staff network from its 2019 Diva Awards shortlist after complaints from LGBT and peace groups.
Feeling the heat from climate strikers and activists, the Royal Shakespeare Company announced it had listened to its youth strikers and ended its sponsorship deal with BP in October. The National Theatre swiftly followed suit, announcing its decision to drop Shell’s funding, citing the climate emergency and the role of theatre in shaping culture and encouraging understanding.
It’s not just oil and arms under the spotlight. The National Portrait Gallery turned down a £1m grant from the Sackler Foundation after artist Nan Goldin led a campaign against the Sackler family’s funds, whose pharmaceutical investments are profiting from the US opioid crisis.
Thank you for your support for the petition to the New Scientistthis autumn, calling for an end to sponsorship of their annual New Scientist Live event by BAE Systems and BP. The momentum gained this year against unethical sponsorship promises fertile ground for the campaign to continue in 2020.
8. International Criminal Court called on to investigate arms companies
On 12th December CAAT joined the European Center for Constitutional Human Rights, Yemeni organisation Mwatana for Human Rights and other international organisations, in calling on the International Criminal Court in the Hague to investigate executives of transnational arms companies and Government officials for their potential complicity in violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. A 350 page dossier was submitted, focused on 26 specific airstrikes which unlawfully killed or injured civilians, and destroyed or damaged schools and hospitals.
The criminal responsibility of arms companies and Government Ministers exporting and authorising arms to the Saudi-led coalition has never been challenged, yet they have played a critical role in the violations of international humanitarian law, and in creating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in Yemen. We’ll let you know how this ground-breaking legal action progresses, and whether those responsible will be brought to court.
Thank you for everything you do to support CAAT’s work. Here’s to resisting together in 2020.
What a incredible start to the Stop DSEI week of action. Huge kudos to the efforts of Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK, War on Want and all their friends who created a beautiful first day of direct action, workshops, dance and music, to protest and disrupt the set up of the London arms fair and say Stop Arming Israel.
In just 6 weeks’ time, arms companies from around the world will be setting up at the Excel Centre in East London for ‘DSEI’, one of the biggest arms fairs in the world, made possible by the political and financial backing of the UK government. We will be there to resist.
Increasingly, arms companies are sponsoring public events and spaces in order to boost their profiles and increase their profits. This has caused artists and performers to take action and demand better. In this blog, a member of the Protest Stencil art collective explains why they removed their work from the Science Museum in London.
Last week a new exhibition opened at the Science Museum in London, just in time for the summer holidays. One of our posters was going to be in the show, but we’ve had to pull out. Here’s why…
Back in March, the Science Museum got in touch saying they were planning an exhibition about data and data breaches. They asked if they could have one of our Facebook adhack posters from last year, “Data misuse is not our friend, it’s our business model”. Those posters got a lot of attention, so it wasn’t surprising the Science Museum had heard about them.
Every year, CAAT activists attend the Annual General Meeting of the UK’s biggest arms company, BAE Systems. We do this so that we can challenge the Board face to face and expose the hypocrisy and greed at the heart of the arms trade. One campaigner who attended this year was Arabian activist, Ameen Nemer. Here he reflects on his reasons for going and how he found the experience.
I attended because I wanted to provide a voice for Arabian people. The absolute monarch does not represent the people in Arabia. The House of Saud tries to kidnap our voices. BAE has fallen for the propaganda and presents the regime as a liberating force. I attended so that I could tell the Board and shareholders about what is really happening to my people and land.
I am sure the BAE AGM will be happy not to have that voice which reminds them of the dirty job they are doing. No matter how nice they present themselves using polite language and advance technology, criminals are still criminals. They need to be exposed, and CAAT is doing a great job.
Shareholders got to direct questions to BAE’s Chair, Roger Carr. He was obviously well-briefed and had prepared answers for questions about the bombing in Yemen. His words may have been delivered with confidence, but they were morally bankrupt.
The organisers of the DPRTE arms fair made the decision to move their event to the ‘high security’ Farnborough International Ltd. so that they could go about their ghastly business unimpeded. On the 28th March, we set about making sure that those in attendance received the iciest reception Rushmoor had to offer.
If you wanted evidence of just how effective sustained protest against the arms trade can be, look no further than the campaign run by Birmingham Stop the Arms Fair. With the promise of a day of creative action à la prior protests in Cardiff and Bristol, Birmingham NEC were pressured into stating that it was ‘more appropriate for DPRTE to be hosted at a more self-contained venue.’ The fact that this arms fair cannot be held in public space anymore is testimony to the general antipathy the general public holds for this amoral trade. It is for this reason that DPRTE 2019 now finds itself behind the chainlink fence of the ‘high security’ Farnborough Exposition and Conference Centre.
Last month CAAT and the CAAT Universities Network co-hosted a very important meeting at the School of Oirental and African Studies, London.
The murder of Jamal Khashoggi’s has put the UK-Saudi relationship under more scrutiny than ever before. Unfortunately there has been more scrutiny of his murder than of the death and destruction that Saudi forces have inflicted on Yemen, and of the ongoing human rights abuses for those living and working in Saudi Arabia and those affected by Saudi Arabia’s international policies. On the 19th November, we co-hosted an event on ‘Saudi-British relations: silenced oppressions & complicity’.