Press release: Where is the wrong?

1 November 2013

Where is the wrong? Arms trade on trial

Photo opportunity: 9.15am. Mon 4 November, Thames Magistrates’ Court, 58 Bow Rd, London E3 4DJ

Protesters arrested for taking action against an international arms fair in London have vowed to defend their right to challenge the arms trade. A solidarity demonstration will take place in their support when they appear in court on Monday 4 November.

Their actions have already received diverse and high-profile public support. A letter of support has been signed by individuals including Caroline Lucas MP, Michael Mansfield QC and Mark Thomas, and over 30 civil society organisations. The letter, published in the Guardian on 1 November 2013, highlighted the wrongs of the arms fair and said the activists should be “congratulated, not convicted” for their acts of resistance.

The campaigners were arrested after putting their bodies in the way of military equipment entering the DSEi arms fair as it set up for business in London this September. They will use their court appearances next week to highlight the real wrong: an arms fair fuelling conflict, repression and human rights abuse.

The issues they will highlight include:

  •  Illegal weaponry: Two exhibitors advertised torture equipment in contravention of UK law. Illegal equipment, including cluster munitions, had also been promoted at the previous two shows, in 2011 and 2009. No prosecutions have taken place.
  • Syrian arms suppliers: The Russian Technologies State Corporation (Rostec) owner of Rosoboronexport, which has supplied the majority of Assad’s conventional weaponry, was allowed to exhibit at DSEi.
  • Repressive and authoritarian buyers: The list of official delegations invited by the UK government to attend the arms fair included nine countries the UK Foreign Office has identified as having the “most serious wide-ranging human rights concerns,” fourteen authoritarian regimes and six countries involved in conflict

In a statement the protesters said:

“We will defend our right to challenge violence at home and abroad, especially where this is subsidised by the UK government whilst it is simultaneously imposing a vicious austerity agenda at home.”

Other people were arrested for resisting the arms fair during the week. One person has their court date on 26 November. Information about these cases will be available on the Stop the Arms Fair website.

ENDS

For further information call 020 7281 0297 during office hours, or mobile 07990 673 232 or email info@stopthearmsfair.org.uk

NOTES

  1. The protesters’ hearing will take place at 10am on Monday 4 November at Thames Magistrates’ Court, 58 Bow Rd, London E3 4DJ.
  2. The defendants were all arrested after participating in a day of action, Occupy vs. the Arms Fair, supported by Stop the Arms Fair, a coalition of groups resisting the arms fair, and solidarity protesters from Algeria, Bahrain, Brazil and Turkey. It was part of a week of protest against the arms fair which saw daily direct action against the arms fair.
  3. Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi) took place from 10-13 September 2013. It is one of the world’s biggest arms fairs and has been held biennially in the ExCel centre in East London’s Docklands since 1999. DSEi receives major financial, logistical and political support from the UK government, most notably through UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation.
  4. Its 1500 exhibitors also included the companies which manufactured the tear gas which has killed and injured protesters in Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey, Brazil and elsewhere, and Israeli companies displaying “battle-tested” weapons.
  5. Full details of the countries which received an official invitation from the UK government can be found here on CAAT’s DSEi pages
  6. Information about the court cases, solidarity messages from the public and a statement by the defendants group can be found at the Stop the Arms Fair website. Information will be shared on twitter using #whereisthewrong