weapons for sale
The biennial arms fair opened for business today at Docklands ExCel Centre amid a flurry of reports about international weapons transfers and protests.
BBC News reports that Campaign Against the Arms Trade were expected to stage protests around the capital against the Defence System Equipment International (DSEI) event taking place in east London today.
Two days ago the Financial Times reported that a delegation from China had been invited to attend the event despite being subject to an EU arms export ban.
Bizarrely, although the EU cannot export weapons to China because of this ban, China is still able to gain official “sponsorship” to attend arms fairs in the UK.
Today Lord Mandelson insisted that China needed to improve its human rights before he saw the lifting of the EU arms embargo. Meanwhile more mud is being thrown at Libya as The Times today reports how the UK Government agreed the transfer of water cannons and armoured personnel carriers to Libya in spite of the fact that they could be used for internal repression.
The sale of water cannon and armoured personnel carriers was approved a year after ten civilians were killed in riots in the town of Benghazi.
William Hague MP points out in the article that “Arms exports controls are designed to protect fundamental human rights principles. Relaxing the rules to accommodate Libya in this case is wrong and the Government must explain to Parliament why this has happened.” That certainly makes sense to me.
There is an ever-increasing need for tighter regulation of the weapons trade and closer scrutiny to the transfer and proliferation of weapons. Amnesty reports upon far too many instances where weapons have ended up in the wrong hands and have inflicted untold suffering. A robust international Arms Trade Treaty is needed to tighten up this trade.
But back to the arms fair, at an arms fair in 2007 (not DSEI’s event) a Chinese company was displaying and selling electroshock torture equipment – such equipment has been illegal in the UK since 1997 and clearly should not have been displayed at an arms fair here in the UK.
Needless to say, we will be paying close attention to this week’s fair to ensure that no banned weapons are on display. If we spy anything that shouldn’t be there, we’ll be the first to let you know.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.