The London Arms Fair 2015: the ad campaign the government never wanted

For many years, the London Arms Fair (DSEI) has been showcasing arms to all kinds of governments, including known human rights abusers.

And that’s not all. Alongside guns, tanks and killer drones, we discovered illegal torture equipment being advertised in 2005, 2007, 2011 and 2013.

At some we found cluster bombs, at others it’s been leg irons, electric shock batons and stun guns – tools used to torture people.

In 2015 we thought people should know what’s happening on their doorstep, so we gave the government:

The-really-big-and-far-reaching-ad-campaign-they-never-really-wanted-you-to-see

We created an advert for them...

…advertised it on really big billboards….

…took out full page press ads…

…and took to the streets to make sure everyone knows what’s really going on.

On top of all that 23,000 of you emailed the government’s Business department, calling on them to stop torture equipment being illegally advertised in the UK and to make sure anyone found responsible is held to account.

You've been heard

The target of our campaign, the Minister of State for Business Anna Soubry, has replied saying she’s received thousands of emails from you, which is ‘evidence of the strength of feeling on this issue.’

While she couldn’t reply to every single letter, she asked us to pass on her message to you.

Read the full reply from the UK government

The Minister also told us that the Uk government supports proposals to strengthen controls on torture equipment and will continue to work with Amnesty on this important issue.

This is a huge step forward – you’ve shown the government that the British public won’t stand for torture equipment being traded on their doorstep.

Access denied

We've been to the Fair many times before but this year, our arms expert was barred from the Fair. Meanwhile, countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Pakistan were given the red-carpet treatment.

'The organisers will doubtless be delighted to have avoided headlines about leg-irons or electro-shock batons being offered for sale at DSEi, but the truth is we simply don’t know what horrendous equipment might be advertised for sale at Docklands this year. They’ve kept me out, but the question is: what has DSEi got to hide?'

Oliver Sprague, Amnesty’s Arms Programme Director

Despite promises to clamp down on this practice, no company has ever been prosecuted for advertising torture equipment at UK arms fairs.

This shouldn’t be happening – there are laws in the EU that prohibit the trade in torture equipment. But savvy companies are exploiting loopholes to trade in these items.

Right now, the EU is reviewing the law and we need the UK to lead the way in stopping torture. This law needs to be tightened – we must not be complicit in equipping torturers