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Addressing some misconceptions about the Arms Trade Treaty

Deception in High Places by Nicholas Gilby

Deception in High Places by Nicholas Gilby

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).

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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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BAE wilts under Select Committee onslaught

Ann Feltham, CAAT’s Parliamentary Co-ordinator, attended the International Development Committee hearing on 19 July which saw  BAE under attack by MPs for its shameful inaction in paying £29.5 million to the Government of Tanzania.

Media eyes may have been focused on the Murdochs’ Select Committee appearance, but the real pleasure for CAAT supporters was the International Development Committee hearing which took place on the same day. The focus was “Financial Crime and Development” and, in particular, BAE’s military radar deal with Tanzania which had been the subject of a plea bargain between the company and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in February 2010.

BAE’s sacrificial goats up before the MPs were Legal Counsel Philip Bramwell and the company’s Head of Government Relations Bob Keen. Why, the MPs demanded to know, had BAE not paid over the £29.5million for the benefit of the Tanzanian people which was part of the plea bargain and confirmed by Judge Bean in the Crown Court in December. Read more »

BAE – getting away with paying peanuts

Demo outside BAE court case

A giant Dick Olver, chairman of BAE, paying peanuts

BAE managed to escape with a fine of £500,000 plus costs in court today. Its plea bargain (worth £30 million) to end years of corruption investigations was structured so poorly that if the court fined more, this would be deducted from the amount Tanzania is to receive in reparations. The judge described “moral pressure” to therefore minimise the fine.

But it is heartening that the judge, like the rest of us, could clearly see through BAE’s story:

“..on the basis of the documents shown to me it seems very naïve in the extreme to think that Mr Vithlani was simply a well-paid lobbyist” Read more »

BAE – guilty not only of “accounting errors”?

We braved the snow to demonstrate outside BAE’s court hearing

CAAT outside court

Will a giant Dick Olver get away with paying peanuts?

Sub-zero temperatures didn’t deter us from voicing our anger outside court today. Arms company BAE was inside and set to get away with paying utter peanuts: buying an end to years of corruption investigations by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). But it seems we weren’t the only people to spot injustice: the judge has so far not rubber-stamped the proposed plea bargain. He has instead postponed sentencing until tomorrow.

The SFO investigations involved allegations of corrupt payments of over £1,000,000,000 in nine countries. The proposed plea bargain on the other hand is a measly £30 million, admitting only to “accounting errors” in a single disastrous deal for Tanzania. Read more »

Justice should be HEARD by everyone

Westminster Magistrates Court

Westminster Magistrates Court

Kaye Stearman explains, as far as she is able, what happened when BAE pleaded guilty in court.
Tuesday 23 November 2010

9.45 – I arrive at Westminister Magistrates Court in Horseferry Road, a building with all the architectual charm of a multi-story parking lot and the security checks of a minor international airport. Read more »

Report – The People’s Jury @ BAE AGM

Anne-Marie O’Reilly on how CAAT campaigners brought BAE to justice on 5 May.

Dick Olver looms over judges

The People's Jury in session

One 12-foot high puppet (literally armed to the teeth) + 30 judge/jurors in wigs and cloaks = a strange sight for civil servants, tourists and shareholders in the City of Westminster this morning. The giant puppet was Dick Olver, Chair of the world’s largest arms company, and the thirty judge/jurors were Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) activists. The scene was set for the People’s Jury outside BAE’s AGM.

Chanting “BAE can’t you see: corruption is your legacy”, the People’s Jury pursued Giant Dick Olver from 66 Victoria Street (home to the government arms sales department from which he receives so much support) to justice outside the AGM. Read more »

BAE boss lectures on ethics – a bad joke?

Cordula Bieri describes how a CAAT protest took on a comic theme to highlight the absurdity of an arms company boss speaking on ethics.

On a cold and wet Thursday evening, 12 November 2009, supporters of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) gathered outside Savoy Place in central London to have a good laugh. What happened?

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) invited BAE Systems’ Chairman, Dick Olver, to give its annual Mountbatten Memorial Lecture on ethics. The head of a company which is being investigated in several countries for alleged corruption and bribery and yet still denies any wrongdoing. So, naturally, we were really interested in what he had to tell us about ethics.
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My latest activities

It has been a busy time on the arms trade campaigning front for me. First up was a stall at the London Vegan Festival. The stall was well positioned in the main hall and there was a steady stream of people for most of the day. Badges were brought, T-shirts sold, campaigning postcards given away and petitions signed (so much that a blank sheet had to be photocopied so that signatures could continue to be collected!).

The main focus of the stall was BAE Systems and the halting of the Serious Fraud Office’s corruption investigation into the Al Yamamah deal with Saudi Arabia. All in all, it was good day as a receptive audience was educated about what CAAT do and a fair amount of money was collected. A second stall at the Anarchist Book Fair on October 18th was also successful and we hope to do other festivals in the future.

Then there was the Merchants of Death walking tour organised by the London CAAT group. This is the second tour London CAAT have done and this one was even more successful than the first. We over doubled the number of attendees (from 10 to 25) and people found it a useful and interesting day. I’m sure London CAAT will be organising another one for the future so keep an eye out for that.

In the meantime we are focussing on the upcoming protests outside events organised by Clarion. Anyone wanting to get involved in London CAAT can contact us on londoncaat(at)riseup*net

Reasons to be cheerful

So the Law Lords have overturned the victory CAAT and the Corner House won in April, declaring that the SFO was in line with the law when it closed a corruption inquiry after pressure from the government. They said this because it was decided amongst themselves that the law cannot be bent, unless ‘national security’ is perceived to be at stake.

Whilst it is clear that in theory we have lost, I urge you friends, campaigners and sympathisers not to be disheartened. We at the CAAT office don’t feel too bad, because we know that not everyone agrees with the Lords’ decision; and this is clearly exemplified by the plentiful coverage and debate there has been in the media throughout this week. If Wednesday had been just another day, another average judgement then that would not have been the case.

So we thank all of you, our supporters, for the help that we’ve been given and steer your eyes towards the disproportionately large silver lining of this small, just-passing-over cloud.

Below you will find Annabelle’s top three reasons to be cheerful.
Read more »