After a year of repression the UK still sells arms to Bahrain

CAAT protests continuing arms sales to Bahrain.

CAAT protesters outside BIS
CAAT protesters outside BIS

Since the New Year, at least ten people have been killed by security forces in Bahrain. Three were killed in custody. Others suffocated on tear gas, which has been fired into people’s homes where they can’t escape.

We have known of Bahrain’s horrific human rights abuses since a year ago when the crackdown on protest began, but the UK continues to arm the kingdom regardless. In Vince Cable’s words last week: “We do business with repressive governments and there’s no denying that.”

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Beyond an Olympic truce

The UK government should go beyond the call for an Olympic truce and take steps to end the arms trade says Kaye Stearman.

It’s good to see the UK government leading the call for a worldwide truce during the 2012 London Olympics. UK diplomats worked overtime to sign up every UN member state to co-sponsor the truce resolution, including South Sudan, the UN’s newest member, and Kiribati, one of the most isolated.

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How I (nearly) got into an arms trade conference

How shameless is the government’s arms sales unit? Even as ordinary people across the Middle East are laying down their lives in the struggle for democracy, UKTI DSO organises a seminar to help arms companies to sell weapons to the repressive regimes of the region.

The event was called Middle East: A vast market for defence and security companies, it was presented by London Chamber of Commerce, and it was to be hosted in the City of London by Royal Bank of Scotland. (The very same RBS that Amnesty International recently forced to stop financing the makers of cluster bombs.)

MIDDLE EAST: A VAST MARKET FOR UK DEFENCE AND SECURITY COMPANIES

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DSEI: playground of the power elite

Brenda Heard of Friends of Lebanon on how arms fairs, such as DSEI, fuel conflict worldwide.

The images have become commonplace. Pick-up trucks laden with rocket launchers and machine guns.  Dusty men with their rifles, poised as so many Rambos. Billows of smoke that linger after the bomber has flown on to its next target. These are the images of contemporary conflict. Differences of socio-political opinion are settled by bloody confrontation.

True, violent conflict is as old as mankind itself. True, self-defence is a necessity, even a responsibility. But the business of war has become the norm rather than the exception. The significance of this development lies not merely in the multitude of violent and unnecessary deaths -but more so in our readily viewing this reality with a novel brand of bold nonchalance.

In business-speak for international arms dealing, DSEI -Defence & Security Equipment International—boasts that its biennial exhibition “provides a time-effective opportunity to meet the whole defence and security supply chain”. DSEI further promises that this year’s event will exceed attendance figures from 2009: 25,170 attendees; 1280 exhibitors; 98 countries; 70 official delegations; 27 national pavilions. Just have a look at its slick website offering  “infinite opportunities” to those who would jump on the weapons carousel.

A stall at DSEI advertising AK-47 assault rifles
A stall at DSEI 2009 advertising AK-47 assault rifles for sale

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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. Continue reading “How to shut down an arms fair”

UKTI DSO: pimping for the arms trade?

Jim McCluskey, who lives in Vince Cable’s constituency asks: As a Liberal Democrat MP Vince Cable supported the call to end government support for arms exports; what’s he doing now he’s trade minister responsible for the arms industry?

Constituents lobby Vince Cable

The international arms trade fuels the World’s wars. This is essentially a criminal activity which causes violent death and untold suffering on a vast scale. The British government is a key player giving massive help, with taxpayers’ money, to UK arms manufacturers.

In 2007 total UK arms exports amounted to £5,474 million. In 2009 the British government claimed that, of the 192 states in the United Nations, the UK was the second largest seller of arms. Continue reading “UKTI DSO: pimping for the arms trade?”

Protesters take Vince Cable to task over his support for arms sales

Rhiannon Rees reports on Kingston Peace Council’s vigil outside Vince Cable’s constituency office

Vince Cable talks to the protesters

On Friday 18 March I joined constituents of Vince Cable who were lobbying him at his constituency office in Twickenham to end government support for arms exports to repressive regimes.

As Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills he is the Minister responsible for the UK Trade and Investment Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO), the government agency that has been promoting arms exports to Libya, Bahrain and other governments that abuse human rights…surely an uncomfortable position for a leading Liberal Democrat MP! Continue reading “Protesters take Vince Cable to task over his support for arms sales”

Green sees red over arms sales

Why did Lord Green take the Trade Minister post when he clearly had problems with the ethics of arms sales? Kaye Stearman ruminates on ethics, religion and arms sales.

What started out green, then rapidly turned yellow, white and red?. No, it’s not a chameleon. It’s the new UK Trade Minister. Why? Well, he is called Green, quickly turned yellow, waved the white flag of surrender, and then grew red with embarassment – as did the government. 

Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint takes his seat in the House of Lords
Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint takes his seat in the House of Lords

This is the background to the riddle. For months the Coalition government had been seeking a Trade Minister, someone with gravitas and international contacts,  to act as a public face of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI). They thought that they had hit the jackpot with Lord Stephen Green of Hurstpierpoint – after all he is a newly appointed Tory Lord just stepping down from the Chairmanship of banking giant HBSC and an ordained Church of England priest. What’s not to like?

Lord Green’s dilemma

Unfortunately Lord Green is reputed not to like weapons companies, so much so that he decided that HBSC would no longer provide financial services to those companies who manufactured arms such as landmines, cluster bombs and combat aircraft. However, according to the Telegraph of 7 January, “the bank retains BAE Systems as a client and its senior non-executive director, Sir Simon Robertson, is chairman of Rolls-Royce”,  so clearly the adversion to arms goes only so far. Continue reading “Green sees red over arms sales”

Farnborough: an arms fair operating alongside a civil aerospace exhibition, obscured by an airshow

Ian Prichard, CAAT’s Research Co-ordinator, describes his day at Farnborough 2010: an arms fair operating alongside a civil aerospace exhibition, all obscured by an airshow.

Finmeccanica's squashed golfball

10.00am – Arrived at Farnborough. My first view is of the vast Finmeccanica exhibition – several buildings including something akin to a squashed-golfball, and plenty of outside space. Helicopters were everywhere, with the odd Eurofighter and drone. Amongst its many business dealings it currently supplies the authoritarian Algerian regime to meet both “battlefield and internal security requirements”, and supplies Turkey with attack helicopters to fight separatist Kurds.

What BAE brings to an airshow
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Rage Against The Arms Trade

Rage Against The Machine on stage
Rage Against The Machine in Finsbury Park

Agenda item at Campaign Against Arms Trade’s weekly meeting: We’ve been invited to have a stall at the Rage Against The Machine gig in Finsbury Park on Sunday 6th June. Is anyone interested in helping run the stall?

“Me! Me! Me!”

I couldn’t believe my luck. Less than a month in the job and I got to see one of my favourite bands.

Remember the 2009 campaign that got RATM’s 1992 single Killing In The Name to Christmas number one in order to keep Simon Cowell’s X Factor winner from the top spot? Well this was the free gig that the band put on to say thank you to British fans. Continue reading “Rage Against The Arms Trade”