In mid-September 2015 we were arrested for seeking to prevent the setting up of the DSEI arms fair. DSEI (“Defence Security Equipment International”) is one of the world’s largest arms fairs. Operating every two years in Newham East London, DSEI exists so that buyers and sellers can come together, network and make arms deals. Over a week, many people sought to blockade the setting up of the arms fair using a variety of tactics. Some of us are accused of putting our bodies in the way of vehicles or of locking our bodies together to block access roads; some of climbing on vehicles as they sought to enter; of flying banners or damaging tanks. Whilst outside the Excel Centre (where DSEI is held) we were being detained and arrested by police, inside businessmen prepared to sell weapons designed to torture, maim and kill, for corporate profit.
The DSEI arms fair is jointly funded and run by the UK government, and it operates with impunity. At every prior DSEI event since 2005, weapons were exhibited for sale that are either prohibited under UK arms export controls due to their capacity for torture or banned under international law for their capabilities concerning mass indiscriminate killing of civilians. Furthermore, numerous buyers were invited to attend from regimes with a documented history of human rights abuses, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, including many actively engaged in illegal wars or occupations. Despite increased public demands for scrutiny of this event, in 2015 all human rights observers were refused entry. The international arms trade has never respected human rights, and is only concerned with making a profit. From the UK’s illegal wars for oil, to the way arms companies are allowed to act here with impunity, there is no accountability.
These arms companies profiteer from the misery of war to turn torture, oppression and slaughter into profit – arming each side or both in a race to maximise profits. And retaining a competitive edge by continually devising newer more inventive ways to torture, surveil and kill, simply to extract more money from states and organisations willing to pay for new ways of killing.
We know that the tools of the type promoted for sale at DSEI 2015 will be used to reinforce apartheid, to surveil and brutalise communities from Brixton to Bahrain, and to perpetuate the border regime that kills thousands every year – as European states wage a war against the refugees they helped create. We know that weapons promoted at DSEI are used to incinerate whole families at the touch of a button in places from Palestine to Pakistan. We know that such weapons will continue to devastate landscapes and do permanent environmental damage across the globe. And that these weapons have been used in systematic forced evictions and ethnic cleansing; such as against the people of Kurdistan. And we know that weapons of the type promoted at DSEI will be used to torture and repress people based on their political views, faith, gender, or sexuality in places like Saudi Arabia and Sudan. Sometimes the tools of oppression are literal – and they are for sale at DSEI arms fair.
Whilst we find ourselves due to stand trial early next year for opposing the DSEI arms fair, we invite you to question why it is us – and not the war makers and profiteers – that are on trial.