Arms companies are facing a week of protests across the UK after a year of increasing public opposition to the arms trade. Stop the Arms Trade Week is underway and runs until 8th June, with events including an Arms Trade Walking Tour of London and a display at the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre. Other locations include Birmingham, Lancashire and Kent. Each event is organised by local residents, with the Week as a whole co-ordinated by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). All events will be strictly nonviolent.
The Week comes after a year of significant successes for CAAT. In April the High Court ruled that the government had acted unlawfully in cutting short a Serious Fraud Office investigation into BAE's Saudi arms deals. The same month saw the closure of the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO), a government-run agency to promote private arms sales, which has been replaced by a weaker unit. Last week the company Reed Elsevier sold its arms fairs in response to a public campaign.
CAAT spokesperson Symon Hill said:
Local people from Hastings to Edinburgh, from Sussex to Saddleworth, are standing up to tell the government that the arms trade does not have public support. Not only does this trade fuel war and perpetuate poverty around the world, but the UK's economy is undermined by approximately £850 million of taxpayers' money wasted every year on subsidies for arms dealers. British democracy is threatened when an arms company such as BAE is so powerful that it can successfully lobby to have a criminal investigation dropped. People from all walks of life are rejecting the excuses made for the arms trade.
The CAAT Christian Network will mark the end of the Week with Stop the Arms Trade Day of Prayer on Sunday 8th June. Churches and other Christian groups across the UK will take part. The Network brings together CAAT's Christian supporters (CAAT as a whole includes people of all faiths and none).
- The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade. 80% of CAAT's funding comes from individual supporters' donations and CAAT is strictly nonviolent in all its work.
- Stop the Arms Trade Week runs from 1st-8th June 2008. Events are organised by local campaigners with support and co-ordination from CAAT nationally. The Arms Trade Walking Tour of London will take place at 11.00am on Wednesday 4th June and will visit the sites of various arms companies and mercenary military firms in London. Stop the Arms Trade Day of Prayer, organised by the CAAT Christian Network, will take place on Sunday 8th June.
- On 10th April 2008, the High Court ruled that the Serious Fraud Office, acting on government advice, had behaved unlawfully in terminating an investigation into BAE's Saudi arms deals. This was in response to a judicial review brought jointly by CAAT and The Corner House, a social justice NGO concerned with corruption.
- Following an announcement on 25th July 2007, the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO) was closed on 1st April 2008. It was a unit of the Ministry of Defence dedicated to finding sales for private arms companies. Its closure followed a high-profile campaign by CAAT and other groups. Some of DESO's functions have been transferred to UK Trade and Investment, which supports civil exports. CAAT is monitoring the situation carefully.
- Following an announcement on 1st June 2007, Reed Elsevier sold its arms fairs to Clarion Events on 29th May 2008. These include the regular London arms fair, Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEI). The sale followed a campaign co-ordinated by CAAT and including Reed's shareholders and customers.