Govt criticised for London arms fair involvement

The arms fair will take place at London's ExCel Centre
The arms fair will take place at London's ExCel Centre

By Alex Stevenson

The government's involvement in a major arms fair held in London next month has been attacked by campaigners.

The Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition is one of the world's largest arms fairs and takes place from September 8th to September 11th at London's ExCel Centre.

UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the government body tasked with promoting British business overseas, finances and promotes DSEI, according to the Campaign Against Arms Trade pressure group.

Its spokesperson Kaye Stearman told "We're particularly concerned between the link between the UK government and DSEI.

"We really feel it's something which is wrong for moral reasons but we also feel it's a huge waste of taxpayers' money."

She explained that government officials are responsible for inviting representatives of other states to the fair - and that these include countries with questionable human rights records.

The Foreign Office (FCO), which together with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is responsible for UKTI, listed Colombia, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam as "major countries of concern" in its 2008 human rights report.

All five have been invited to the DSEI fair.

"The UK government, whether represented by UKTI or the Ministry of Defence, seems happy to invite countries who are involved in conflicts or have appalling human rights records, as documented by the FCO's own human rights report," Ms Stearman said.

"On paper they don't even meet the UK government's own standard for arms export licences - nevertheless they are invited to an arms fair and receive approval to acquire even more weapons."

A UKTI spokesperson said exports take place in accordance with Britain's international commitments and laws - and that "any application for a licence to export to countries who attended the exhibition will be considered in light of the circumstances which exist in the buyer country at that time".

He added that human rights in the buyer country are one of many factors taken into account by the government - including "that country's internal situation" and "our own security here in the UK".

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills publishes information on licences granted each quarter online at the Export Control Organisation's website.


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