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UK: Police must allow peaceful protesters to demonstrate at global arms fair in London

DSEI, one of the world’s biggest arms fairs, opens in London’s Docklands today

Peaceful protesters will attend the event and police have already made arrests at the venue over the past few days

At past fairs illegal torture equipment has been advertised for sale - including cluster bombs, electro-shock stun guns and leg-irons

We call on the police to fully facilitate protest and refrain from any use of their draconian anti-protest powers’ – Oliver Feeley-Sprague

Ahead of the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair opening today (12 September) and in response to the arrests of peaceful protesters outside the venue late last week, Oliver Feeley-Sprague, Amnesty UK’s Arms Control Programme Director, said:  

“Today marks the beginning of one of the world’s biggest arms fairs – one that has a history of touting extraordinarily cruel and sometimes illegal torture equipment.

“Attracting buyers and sellers from all over the world – including representatives from some of the world’s most repressive regimes who will have been handed official invitations from the UK government – it is an opportunity for billions of pounds worth of deals to be struck that will further perpetuate conflict and suffering around the world.

“Peaceful protest must be allowed at DSEI and we call on police to refrain from any use of their draconian anti-protest powers - including setting undue restrictions on people's rights to peacefully demonstrate outside the venue.

“It’s precisely during the staging of controversial events like arms fairs that the right to gather and voice your opinion really counts, and how the police respond to protests at Docklands will be another key test of our freedoms in this country. 

"In the build-up to the fair, police have already made a number of arrests, sadly suggesting they are taking a hard line with almost zero tolerance shown to anyone peacefully protesting against the arms trade.

“In the past, illegal policing and security equipment and other weapons have  been advertised at DSEI. Even without illegal equipment on display, there are numerous weapons that either have been or risk being used to carry out atrocities against civilians.  DSEI is the perfect venue for overseas buyers hoping to equip their law-enforcement bodies with crowd-control devices and weapons that could be used to crush protests.

“While a heavy-handed police response to protest outside the ExCel centre will doubtless meet with the approval of some of the fair’s attendees, it will be another worrying sign that the right to protest is under sustained attack in the UK.

“Amnesty will be watching closely to see how policing of the event unfolds."

Touting torture equipment

DSEI is one of the world’s biggest arms fairs, bringing together some 1,500 arms dealers every two years. This year it takes place between 12 and 15 September.

Last week, before the event had even opened, nine peaceful protesters were arrested.

At past DSEI fairs, campaigners have discovered a variety of illegal torture equipment advertised for sale - including electro-shock stun guns and batons, leg-irons, and belly-, body- and gang-chains.

A range of illegal cluster-munition weaponry has also been advertised. In total, Amnesty has identified nine companies that have violated UK law at past DSEI events between 2005 and 2013 (every fair has included at least one illegal incident) and given the large number of exhibitors other illegal activity may have gone undetected. 

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