CAAT condemns empty words from Government as arms sale drive continues

18 February 2011

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) today condemned the Government's reaction to revelations about UK arms exports to the Middle East. It calls on the Government and UK companies to withdraw from a controversial Middle East arms fair which starts this weekend and for fundamental reform to the UK's irresponsible arms export policy.

Yesterday it was revealed that the UK Government had approved the export of goods including tear gas and crowd control ammunition and sniper rifles to Bahrain and Libya, as well as a wide range of other military equipment to authoritarian regimes in the region.

CAAT calls for an immediate arms embargo to the region, for a thorough review of why such exports were ever licensed in the first place and for fundamental reform to the UK's irresponsible arms export policy.

The UK must cancel its participation in the IDEX arms fair which starts this weekend.

The Government's arms promotion unit, UK Trade & Investment Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) will be exhibiting at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX), the largest defence and security event in the Middle East and North African region. The UK arms industry body Aerospace|Defence|Security (ADS) claims that 10% of exhibitors will be from the UK and says “our sizable presence at IDEX 2011 shows that we mean business.” IDEX takes place from Sunday 20th – Thursday 24th February, in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Sarah Waldron Campaigns Coordinator at CAAT said:

“It is astounding that the government is still insisting it has a responsible arms export policy while, in the same breath, admitting that it was happy to supply authoritarian regimes with the means to crush dissent.

Far from seeking to restrain arms sales, the UK government actively promotes them . While this policy stands there is no prospect of meaningful arms control.

The UK must cancel its participation in the IDEX arms fair this weekend, end its irresponsible arms exports and stop using taxpayers' money to promote arms sales.”

ENDS

For further information or an interview please contact CAAT's Campaigns Coordinator, Sarah Waldron on 020 7281 0297 or mobile 07990 673 232 or email campaign(at)caat·org·uk

NOTES

  1. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade. Around 80% of CAAT's income is raised from individual supporters.
  2. Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and Saudi Arabia are all classed as authoritarian regimes according to the Economist Intelligence Unit Index of Democracy 2008. CAAT has highlighted some of the UK's most controversial arms exports to the region. See also CAAT's summary of UK arms exports and promotion. Approved UK arms export licences are taken from government figures for Strategic Export Controls. CAAT has compiled a calendar of UKTI DSO arms promotion activity and publishes the results of Freedom of Information requests related to UK arms promotion.
  3. UK trade organisation Aerospace|Defence|Security says in a press release that it will be attending IDEX to “continue its promotion of the UK defence and security industry's interests in the UAE and Middle East.” CAAT has more information on IDEX.
  4. In November 2010 more than half of the exhibitors at the Libyan Defence & Security Exhibition (LibDex), billed as an opportunity for international manufacturers to network with “all bodies involved in the defence and security industry in Libya and North Africa”, were UK companies.
  5. UK Trade and Investment has approximately 130 staff to support 34 industry sectors. In 2008, it opened the Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) to promote arms exports. UKTI now employs 160 civil servants to sell arms. Peter Luff, Defence Equipment Minister, has said: “There will be a very, very, very heavy ministerial commitment to (arms sales). There is a sense that in the past we were rather embarrassed about exporting defence products. There is no such embarrassment in this Government.” Foreign Secretary William Hague has also been upfront about his involvement in promoting BAE products to the rest of the world.
  6. UKTI DSO has listed Bahrain as a key market for UK arms exports. It invited Bahrain to attend UK arms fairs, the Farnborough Airshow in 2010 and Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) in 2009. UKTI DSO supported the Bahrain International Airshow 2010, where it organised an outdoor event. It has used UK armed forces have been used in support of sales efforts, demonstrating arms to the Royal Bahrain Artillery. Libya is a UKTI DSO priority market country, and the UK has made 'high level political interventions' in support of arms sales to Libya. Libya was also invited to attend the Farnborough Airshow in 2010 and DSEI in 2009. UKTI DSO has exhibited at Libyan arms fairs including LibDex.
  7. CAAT's new campaign “This is NOT OK” challenges the government's assertion it has a responsible arms export policy. The campaign focuses on the support provided by UKTI DSO, the government organisation responsible for promoting arms exports and organising and inviting foreign government delegations to UK arms fairs. CAAT's campaign also targets Clarion Events, the private company that owns and organises international arms fairs, including DSEI, the biennial London arms fair. Clarion Events also owns events such as the Baby Show, taking place this weekend at the ExCeL Centre in East London (the venue for DSEI later in the year).
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