- The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has lodged an appeal against eight anti-arms trade activists who were acquitted of obstructing the highway, in an attempt to stop DSEI, one of the world’s largest arms fairs.
- The activists were acquitted after the Court accepted that they were seeking to prevent greater crimes – namely, the promotion of torture weapons and the sale of arms to countries immediately complicit in war crimes such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Bahrain.
On Friday the CPS submitted an Application to Magistrates’ Court to State a Case for an Appeal to the High Court under rule 35.2 of the Criminal Procedure Rules. If the CPS is successful then the matter will be heard in the High Court.
Prevention of crime’ was one of a number of defences run. During the trial, high profile expert witnesses from Amnesty, Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) and Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) gave evidence to the effect that illegal weapons and instruments of torture had been promoted for sale at DSEI, and that the arms fair is used to sell weapons knowing that they will be used for human rights abuses.
The DSEI (Defence & Security Equipment International) arms fair takes place every two years in London’s Docklands, and is jointly organised by Clarion Events and the UK Government. Buyers include countries involved in conflict and from human rights abusing regimes. In September 2015 over 1500 exhibitors and 30,000 delegates attended from around the world, including most of the world’s largest arms companies, displaying arms ranging from rifles to tanks, fighter jets, battleships, missiles, military electronics, surveillance and riot control equipment.
The eight anti-arms trade activists previously faced charges at Stratford Magistrates’ Court arising from having disrupted the arms fair last September by blocking the access roads to the site with their bodies, or by locking themselves to the gates or vehicles. All eight defendants were acquitted of Obstructing the Highway on 15 April 2016.
The decision by the state to appeal has controversially come at the same time as the Government has ignored urgent calls from the House of Commons International Development Committee and the European Parliament, as well as leading NGOs, to impose an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.
In a joint public statement, the defendants’ campaign said:
“We absolutely stand by our actions at the DSEI arms fair in seeking to prevent corporate and state support for torture and the mass indiscriminate killing of civilians. Our actions have continued to show where the interests of money and power truly lie. The state has invested a prolific amount of time and public money seeking to prosecute us. Many of us feel that perhaps if the state had chosen to focus their resources on those selling killing machines and torture weapons to human rights abusers then we would see some of the arms dealers in court, instead of those who are trying to prevent some of the vilest crimes including torture and war crimes.”
In delivering comments on his judgement DJ Hamilton said:
” the court has been presented with clear, credible and largely unchallenged evidence from three experts that criminal wrongdoing had occurred at past DSEI exhibitions involving the sale of arms to countries which then used those arms against civilian populations and the sale of items that were inherently unlawful such as cluster munitions and items designed for torture and inappropriate restraint. There was, as a result, a compelling inference that such activities would also take place at the 2015 DSEI exhibition.
“The court was also presented with clear, credible and largely unchallenged evidence that such criminal activities are not being properly investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted. Ample evidence of this was provided by the three experts. One can also look at the response of the police officers to whom these individual defendants complained about likely criminal activity occurring at the 2015 DSEI fair. Such complaints were not, apparently, taken seriously and no action was taken in relation to them.”
The defendants Isa Al-Aali (from Bahrain), Angela Ditchfield (from UK), Lisa Butler (from UK), Thomas Franklin (from UK), Javier Garate Neidhart (from Chile), Susannah Mengesha (from UK), Luis Tinoco Torrejon (from Peru) and Bram Vranken (from Belgium) are represented by Kelly’s Solicitors of Brighton, Hodge Jones & Allen of London and Bindman’s Solicitors of London.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
The defendants’ solidarity campaign can be reached for comment by calling Vyara Gylsen on 07543 281020 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
More information about the DSEI arms fair can be found at:
- Stop the Arms Fair: www.stopthearmsfair.org.uk/about/dsei/
- Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT): www.caat.org.uk
- More information about the trial:
Click here for CPS appeal (Note that this is the submission to the Magistrates’ Court, and is subject to change)
- Click here for the full judgement of the acquittal.
- Click here and here for photographs of the trial, and here for photographs from the DSEI demonstrations.