Hundreds of campaigners have formed a human chain around the headquarters of DESO (Defence Export Services Organisation), a Government unit that secures business for private arms companies. They encircled DESO's central London offices at 1.00pm today calling for DESO to be shut and labelling the building a "Global Danger Zone". The chain involved about three hundred people, including comedian Mark Thomas and Norman Kember, who survived kidnapping in Iraq.
The peaceful demonstration highlighted the role of DESO in using taxpayers' money to benefit arms traders and in marketing weapons to brutal regimes such as Saudi Arabia. Participants travelled from all over Britain to join the chain, which attracted significant support from people living and working locally. The event was followed by a lobby of Parliament.
Mark Thomas, writer and comedian said:
"When taxpayers' money is used to subsidise arms deals, we are complicit in those deals. We are here to say 'No! We will not be complicit!'"
Anna Jones of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said:
"People from all walks of life have today said that DESO must be shut. The British public do not want their taxes funding a marketing agency for private arms dealers. We have sent a message that time is up for the Government's gunrunners."
The human chain included people of all faiths and none. Earlier in the day a prayer meeting was held outside DESO's headquarters by Christians calling for DESO's closure, including the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the CAAT Christian Network.
The campaign to shut DESO is backed by the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party along with leading Labour backbenchers including Clare Short and John McDonnell. It has the support of prominent religious leaders including Graham Carter (President of the Methodist Church), Colin Bennetts (Anglican Bishop of Coventry) and Patrick O'Donoghue (RC Bishop of Lancaster). In all, thirty-five NGOs and political groups have formally endorsed the campaign.ENDS
For further information or an interview please contact CAAT's Media Co-ordinator, Symon Hill on 020 7281 0297 or email media(at)caat·org·uk.
1. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade.
2. CAAT spokespeople are available for interview on the Shut DESO campaign.
3. The human chain was formed at 1.00pm today (16th October 2006) around DESO's headquarters in Bloomsbury Way, London WC1. Photographs are available on request. This was a peaceful and lawful demonstration. It was organised by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) with the support of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
4. The prayer meeting outside DESO's headquarters was held at 10.00am today (16th October 2006) by groups supporing DESO's closure. They included the CAAT Christian Network, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pax Christi and SPEAK. Fifteen Christian leaders, including those mentioned above, signed a letter calling for DESO's closure which was published in the national media on 6th October 2006.
5. DESO's Strategic Marketing Plan for 2005 was obtained by CAAT under the Freedom of Information Act and made public on 24th September 2006. It listed Iraq and Libya as "key markets" for the first time, along with other regimes with poor human rights records including Colombia and Saudi Arabia. India and Pakistan were both listed as "key markets" despite ongoing tension between them.
6. The Shut DESO campaign is supported by ACORD, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Burma Campaign, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), Campaign Against Depleted Uranium, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases, Conscience, Corporate Responsibility Coalition, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Green Party of England and Wales, Jesuit Refugee Service, Justice Not Vengeance, Landmine Action, Liberal Democrats, Liberal Democrats for Peace and Security, MedAct, Movement for the Abolition of War, One World Action, Oxford Research Group, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Pax Christi, Peace Direct, Peace Pledge Union, Plaid Cymru, Progressio, Quaker Peace & Social Witness, Respect, Scientists for Global Responsibility, Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), SPEAK, TAPOL, UNA Wales, Waging Peace and War Resisters International.