UK government welcomes Assad's military suppliers to arms fair

By staff writers
September 3, 2013

The UK government is condemning violence in Syria, days before inviting other brutal dictators to shop for weapons at a massive arms fair.

The Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEi) in London declares itself "the world’s largest fully integrated defence and security exhibition that brings together the entire industry to source the latest equipment and systems, develop international relationships, and generate new business opportunities."

Critics say it is a shop window for violent regimes to cash in on military goods.

"The government is welcoming Assad's arms suppliers to London and pushing weapons sales to other brutal dictators," says Henry McLaughlin of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

"Despite having threatened military action against Assad, it will still host his weapons suppliers at the arms fair."

From 10-13 September, as arms dealers from around the world make more deadly deals in London, MPs will debate the role of UK Trade and Investment, the government's trade promotion body.

Within UKTI is a team of 150 civil servants whose job it is to promote weapons sales. CAAT wants its supporters to ask their MPs to help challenge its role in pushing arms sales.

"It's this team which is helping organise the arms fair in London. It's this team which helps organise David Cameron's arms sales trips – like the one he made while on a democracy tour in Egypt – and it's this team that lists some of the world's worst human rights abusers as priority markets for UK weapons sales," says Mr McLaughlin.

Recently CAAT supporters and others flooded the UK Foreign Office with emails, hit the headlines and managed to stop more weapons being shipped to Egypt.

"Earlier last week it looked like we might be ignored. An email sent from the Foreign Office said nothing was going to change. But now our pressure is starting to tell and the government has suspended a further 45 arms export licences. We're only partly there – we still need an embargo to send a strong message," the CAAT spokesperson adds.

Six Christian organisations (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/18861), including the think-tank Ekklesia, have said that they believe nonviolent direct action against DSEi is morally justified.

The Rev Dr Keith Hebden, an Ekklesia associate, commented: "Real, systemic and ethical change has always been sparked by prophetic witness, usually at some personal cost to the compassionate activist.

"There are deep moral issues at stake here. Christians and others taking nonviolent direct action will do so only after careful thought and prayer, and will be prepared to accept the consequences."

CAAT has produced a briefing on the London arms expo, available here (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document): http://www.caat.org.uk/resources/materials/dsei-ukti-mp.pdf

* Campaign Against Arms Trade: http://www.caat.org.uk/

* Stop the Arms Fair website: http://www.stopthearmsfair.org.uk

* Twitterstorm against DSEi London arms fair, Thurs 5 September, 7pm facebook.com/events/4980074

* More on Syria from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/syria

[Ekk/3]

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