Arms Trade On Trial
In defiance of corporate pressure, the film Arms Trade On Trial has been released, which documents our attempts to hold arms dealers from the DSEi arms fair to account for the promotion of illegal torture weapons.
DSEi (“Defence Security Equipment International”), is the world’s largest arms fair, and takes place every two years in East London. It is jointly held and heavily subsidised by the British government. DSEi has hosted arms companies from more than 50 countries, with around 1500 exhibitors registered as selling arms, missiles, fighter aircrafts, tanks, military electronics and warships, as well as surveillance and riot control equipment. At the last DSEi arms fair around 30,000 buyers and sellers came from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bahrain, Israel, Mexico and Colombia. Anti-militarist activists and peace campaigners have engaged a diversity of tactics to disrupt the arms fair.
At every DSEi arms fair since 2005 , illegal weapons have been promoted for sale . This includes weapons designed specifically for torture, as well as cluster munitions and anti-personnel landmines. At the last DSEi event, two companies (Tianjin MyWay International of China and Magforce International of France) were identified as promoting illegal torture weapons including fetters, electric stun batons and stun guns. In the absence of any meaningful response from the state, a group of activists (having ourselves faced criminal charges for disrupting the arms fair) sought to privately prosecute the arms dealers for the promotion of illegal torture weapons at DSEi. The arms companies were compelled to attend court, and the matter proceeded as far as being listed for trial. However, following intervention by senior directors at the CPS, the case was unexpectedly shut down. In defiance of pressures not to speak out about what happened, the film Arms Trade On Trial has been released.
We oppose not only ‘illegal’ weapons, but the sale of arms for corporate profit more widely. We sought with our proceedings to shine a light on the true nature of the DSEi arms fair, and to highlight the state’s relationship with the arms trade, allowing it to operate with immunity. The state’s behaviour as concerns our case (both a failure to investigate and prosecute arms companies that have promoted torture equipment, as well as its role in preventing others from holding them to account) is illustrative of their longstanding complicity in fuelling torture and conflict. Since the state clearly cannot be relied upon to stop the torture and killings, it is no wonder people feel that the only effective course is direct action.
The DSEi arms fair is currently set to return in September 2015, and it will once again bring together repressive regimes and fuel conflict and human rights abuses. More information about the forthcoming mobilisation against DSEi 2015 can be found on the Stop The Arms Fair website.