On Wednesday 25 January, anti-arms trade campaigners will present a petition at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) calling on the UK government to end arms sales to repressive regimes. The day marks the first anniversary of the beginning of the popular uprising in Egypt which resulted in the overthrow of the Mubarak government despite a violent crackdown by military and security forces.
Figures published last week reveal that the UK licenced over £1.5 million worth of military exports to Egypt in the third quarter of 2011. This included thermal imaging equipment, components for military combat vehicles and military helicopters, and military communications equipment. In the past year, at least 846 civilians have been killed in the government crackdown on protesters.
The petition, signed by over 7,000 people, is part of Campaign Against Arms Trade's (CAAT) continuing campaign "This is NOT OK", highlighting the government's promotion of arms sales to repressive regimes and countries in conflict. The petition includes thousands of personal messages, with signatories expressing their outrage that the UK government continues to sell weapons to Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, even as British weapons are being used against democracy activists.
The petition will be presented to the FCO at 11.30am by a delegation of CAAT staff and supporters. The delegation will then join demonstrators outside the Egyptian Embassy.
Sarah Waldron, CAAT campaign co-ordinator, says:
The government makes great play of the fact that it cancelled some arms licences in early 2011 but their own data reveals the true situation. The government continues to issue arms export licences to Bahrain and Egypt even though human rights abuses continue on the streets.
We should heed a callout from Tahir Square: "The army and police rely on tear gas, bullets and weapons from aboard... We ask you to take action... Shut down the arms dealers. Do not let them make it, ship it.
The Egyptian revolution was a landmark event, showing that oppressed people can rise against their entrenched and violent rulers. These rulers are supported by western weaponry. We take action today in solidarity with those who are brave enough to push for democracy even in the face of repressive military rule in Egypt.
The petition reads:
Stop arming repressive regimes. It's time to end government support for the arms trade and close the DSEI arms fair.
For further information contact CAAT's Media Co-ordinator Kaye Stearman on 0207 281 0287 or email Kaye Stearman.
1. The petition will be handed in at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall at 11.30am on Wednesday 25 January. The delegation will be available for interview before and after the event.
2. The petition is still open for signing. It can be found: here. Signatories are encouraged to add their own messages which are displayed in an interactive map..
3. CAAT's campaign "This is NOT OK" was launched on 17 January 2011, the 50th anniversary of President Eisenhower's farewell address, where he warned against the unfettered growth of the "military-industrial complex". The simple slogan highlights the unethical basis of the Government's enthusiastic support for the arms industry and arms exports.
4. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) in the UK works to end the international arms trade. The arms business has a devastating impact on human rights and society and damages economic development. Large-scale military procurement and arms exports only reinforce a militaristic approach to international problems Around 80% of CAAT's income is raised from individual supporters.
5. The UK government announced that it revoked 160 military licences in February and March 2011, principally to Bahrain, Egypt and Libya. However, many licences remained in place and many military licences have been issued since then. In the second quarter of 2011, the UK licenced £127,000 worth of military goods to Bahrain; in the third quarter this reached over £1.3 million. In Egypt, the UK licensed £220,000 in the second quarter and over £1.5 million in the third quarter. The UK has never revoked licences to Saudi Arabia, its largest customer in the region, and in January 2012 David Cameron visited the kingdom to "deepen business relations."
6. Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI), is one of the world's biggest arms fairs and has been held in the ExCeL centre in East London's Docklands every two years since 1999. The next DSEI is scheduled for September 2013.