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The ‘arms for dictators’ scandal isn’t new. It is cross-party, well-established and has been going on for too long

The British government actively promotes the Eurofighter Typhoon to foreign government. This scene comes from  the Farnborough arms fair in 2012.

The British government actively promotes the Eurofighter Typhoon to foreign governments. This scene comes from the Farnborough arms fair in 2012.

The fringe issue of arms export criteria became headline news today (17 July),  with The Independent’s splash on an “‘arms for dictators” scandal. A parliamentary report by the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) raised a few eyebrows, but the embarrassment of the government approving arms sales to 25 out of 27 of the countries blacklisted as human rights abusers will soon vanish.

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Tear gas suppliers at London’s arms fair

British made tear gas used in Egypt- photo by Omar Robert Hamilton

British made tear gas used in Egypt- photo by Omar Robert Hamilton

This September’s DSEI arms fair will once again give authoritarian governments and dictatorships the opportunity to stock up on what is fast becoming the weapon of choice for repressive regimes- tear gas.

Some of the world’s leading suppliers of tear gas will be exhibiting, including British arms company Chemring, Brazil’s Condor, the US firm Non-Lethal Technologies and the joint German and South African-owned company Rheinmetall.

Tear gas made by these companies has recently been used to help crush protests in Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey and Brazil.

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In solidarity with democracy protesters: Stop Arming Egypt

Campaigners outside the Foreign OfficeOne year ago today, the revolution in Egypt began. Since then, those calling for democracy have been put through military trials, tortured and killed. Yet the UK is still arming the regime. Today, before joining the vigil outside the Egyptian Embassy, we delivered our petition of over 7,000 signatures to the Foreign Office, the department responsible for licensing weapons sales to the regime. Our message was clear:

On the anniversary of the beginning of the popular uprising in Egypt, we are calling for an end to the UK’s promotion of arms sales to repressive regimes.

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How to shut down an arms fair

Kat Hobbs reports on how Australian peace activists shut down three successive arms fairs and why they should serve as an inspiration for activists who want to close DSEI 

Why would someone label peace activists “feral, low-life people that want society to be in a state of near anarchy for their own perverse pleasure?” These were the words of Kevin Foley, then Acting Premier of South Australia, in September 2008.  But it’s no wonder he was feeling bitter. Australian peace activists had just stopped a third arms fair from going ahead. An arms fair that Foley, who wanted to promote South Australia as the “Defence State”, had supported and spent government money on. Read more »

Why does the West continue to arm authoritarian regimes?

Karim Malak from Egypt reports on an incident on Armed Forces day, 23 July 2011

A Military commander talks to protesters as they encircle and cordon off a peaceful march in Abbasiya. Photo Credit: Gigi Ibrahim

On 23 July 2011 the Egyptian military cautiously began marking Armed Forces day. The night before, the military had issued a communique on their facebook page incriminating 6 April, a large civil society organisation and opposition movement.

In response, activists spread the call for a march to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) (Twitter hashtag: #SCAF). As thousands of people marched from Tahrir Square to Abbasiya to protest it soon became apparent that the violence that broke out had been orchestrated. A chaotic scene soon engulfed in Tahrir Square. Read more »

Wild beasts and parliamentary action

Kaye Stearman asks: “Why do MPs care so passionately about animal rights while failing to tackle issues like the arms trade?”

One night in June as I was drifting off to sleep, I was galvanised by the passionate debate being played out on the normally soporific Today in Parliament on Radio 4. The programme is noted for its erudition in the explanation of arcane bills and ministerial soundbites but to hear genuine anger and passionate advocacy is rare.

Tiger jumping through hoop

Even more surprising was that the debate was led by backbenchers and cut across partly lines. Who, I wondered, were these MPs and what was their cause. Surely it must involve an issue such as violation of human rights, poverty, famine, war or the arms trade.

Alas, it was none of these. To be fair, it did involve the rights of living beings – in this case wild animals. MPs united in support of a law that would ban lions, tigers and other wild animals from circus shows in the UK. The government had tried to impose a three-line whip, backbenchers had refused to knuckle under and a heartfelt debate on the wrongs of animal mistreatment ensued. Read more »