Pressure is growing on the Natural History Museum to cancel a reception to mark the opening of Farnborough International. Representatives of repressive regimes and the world's top arms companies, including the principal arms supplier to the Syrian government, Rosoboronexport, are expected to attend the reception on 9 July 2012.
Rosoboronexport, the Russian state-backed arms exporter, has said it will export weapons to Syria, which “may be an accomplice to crimes against humanity”, according to Human Rights Watch.
The director of the Natural History Museum, Dr Michael Dixon, has stated that for the Museum the event is simply a commercial transaction, not "an expression of support" for the arms industry. However, opposition is mounting against allowing such a valued public institution to be used to give a veneer of legitimacy to the international arms trade.
Farnborough International's organisers describe the reception as “THE most important event during the Farnborough week, exclusively attended by key industry senior level figures, international delegations and exhibitors … a must attend event and an unparalleled networking opportunity.”
Over 1,600 hundred people have contacted the museum asking it to reconsider. The campaign has been boosted by support from a group of scientists, including Professor Steve Jones, who have condemned the museum's decision. A joint letter, to be released later this week, calls on the Museum to sever its links with the arms trade.
Sarah Waldron from Camapaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said: "It's deeply disappointing that the Natural History Museum is allowing its good name and facilities to be used in this way. The Museum is supposed to be a celebration of life: it should not be opening its doors to human rights abusers and the companies that profit from supplying them."