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.
Continue reading “BAE boss lectures on ethics – a bad joke?”
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
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.
Continue reading “Reasons to be cheerful”
On the 7th and 8th of July I went down to Parliament to watch CAAT and the Corner House return to court, this time for the Serious Fraud Office’s appeal hearing in the House of Lords. If you make it past security, agree to wear a little picture of yourself around your neck and meander round the stony labyrinth we call Parliament, you can sit in a little room with regal, furry wallpaper and watch the proceedings.
The results of this hearing – sadly not expected until October due to the Summer recess – will be crucial not only for CAAT and the Corner House, but also for the government. The case has brought under the microscope one of the main facets of Britain’s unwritten, tacitly approved constitution: that our legal system is, or should be, independent of the government. Whilst this is something that has been unanimously accepted as right for aeons, there are odd occasions when the principle is called into question. A decision on this matter is important as, having a legal system based upon precedent means that if a person can prove a particular principle in a British court, then it will open a gateway for all similar cases in future.
Continue reading “House of Lords July ’08”
My BAE AGM virginity was about to come to an end as I entered the Queen Elizabeth Conference centre, where no expense had been spared on lavish security measures to welcome proxy shareholders like myself. The BAE chairman Dick Olver’s introductory statement included a shareholder-pleasing boast about a 13.3% proposed increase in the 2007 dividend. However, much of his presentation was devoted to this year’s hot topic, business ethics. He acknowledged the reputational damage that the whole SFO affair had done but kept stressing that “our” company had never been found guilty of any wrongdoings in four years of SFO scrutiny, conveniently omitting the fact that the investigation was halted just as it was making good progress unearthing useful details from Swiss bank accounts.
Continue reading “BAE Systems AGM, 7 May 2008”
As everybody knows, truly great baddies never really go away but always return for an epic sequel. This time, part two will be played out in the House of Lords, as the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has decided to launch an appeal against the judgement previously won by CAAT and The Corner House.
This next fight will be premised upon the SFO’s claim that ‘public interest’ demands the case is heard by the highest court in the land. Judges Moses and Sullivan agree, whilst CAAT people know that the dark side is always defeated in the end, one way or another, and so are happy to have the case heard again. As such, both tribes are laying down plans for the what is likely to be the greatest fight the Lords have ever seen.
The preliminary hearing for the appeal took place last week in one of the history-addled, cavernous rooms at the High Court in London. Anyone is welcome to attend any such hearing unless they are specifically closed to the public, and finding this one open to all I went along to watch the action live.
Continue reading “Back in Court – Appeal Hearing”
April the High Court handed down a ruling in favour of CAAT and The Corner House, finding that the government had buckled under pressure from a Saudi prince and unlawfully ended the investigation into allegations of corruption surrounding arms deals with Saudi Arabia. Given the landmark status of the Court’s judgment a press conference was held to field the massive media interest, and arriving early before the ruling was made public, the tension and sense of trepidation in the air was tangible.
Having never met a journalist before (never mind attended a press conference) I shared in the mood of nervous excitement as I helped to welcome and register the mixed bag of scruffy ruffians and suit-clad media people that would constitute our audience. Weaving through the throng I overheard a well-known journalist speaking on his mobile phone. He described the Court’s judgement as ‘withering’ and said he’d never heard anything like it. Despite the unassuming look of many, their tardy tendancies and willingness to squash into a room already packed to the rafters, journalists are tough. They often hold a lot of sway in whether and how the public recieves a story, and this press conference would be a crucial chance for CAAT to elucidate a stronger stance for supporters and answer back to critics. Representatives from two dozen media houses attended, reflecting the truly national implications of CAAT’s court case and maximising exposure for an important but oft-overlooked cause.
Continue reading “CAAT Press Conference As CAAT Wins Landmark Case Against Government”
The name Blackwater first seriously entered the popular consciousness on September 17th 2007 when 17 Iraqi civilians were shot dead by Blackwater employees, working as ‘security contractors’, in an affluent neighbourhood of Baghdad. The Iraqi government’s investigation found that, contrary to the claims of the Blackwater corporation, the security contractors had not been attacked. A parallel US congressional investigation, presumably quite well disposed towards the corporation given that it was the US government who had contracted out defence work to Blackwater, found that their use of force had been “excessive” and “pre-emptive”. Quite reasonably the Iraqi government asked that Blackwater and their men be held to account. Yet this was impossible because the US occupying forces had granted government contractors immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law. However as subcontractors, rather than US government employees, they’re not subject to military discipline. In effect they operate in a complete legal vacuum.
Continue reading “Blackwater”
As part of the Control BAE campaign, London CAAT set up stall near Old Street station on Friday 30th November to call for the reopening of the Serious Fraud Office’s enquiry into alleged corruption in deals with Saudi Arabia. We chose the location because it was outside the BAE/HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd) joint venture company located at 4 City Cloisters, 196 Old Street.
The main objective of the afternoon (in the absence of any media for our photo opportunity stunt) was to inform people in the area of the issues and get signatures on the petition to reopen the enquiry. In addition, we were able to point out the presence of an arms company to many surprised local residents and garner some interest in the local group.
Continue reading “Elvis, Aliens and the unlikelihood of BAE’s innocence”
Just a quick one to say how excited I am that CAAT and Corner house have won the court case last Friday :). The permission has now been granted to bring a full judicial review against the governments decision to cut short a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into alleged corruption by BAE Systems in recent arms deals with Saudi Arabia.
That really is fantastic news!
Well done to everyone who campaigned for the SFO inquiry to be re-opened and thanks a million to those of you who helped me raise 280 quid on pledegebank for CAAT to go ahead with the legal challenge. The money really helped to make a difference. Or as my friend Masa put it: “That was 10 quid well spent!”:)
Continue reading “CAAT wins again !”