“This week, which marks the sixth anniversary of the September 11 attacks when 3000 people lost their lives, it is deeply distressing that London is hosting Europe’s biggest arms fair.
I give my whole-hearted support to those demonstrating against the fair. Thinking of the devastating images from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where over 1.5 million people have now been killed or seriously injured, I find it repulsive that we should continue to profit from this trade. Arms sales enable repressive regimes to maintain their power yet several countries with poor records on human rights were invited to the trade fair this year including Libya, Saudi Arabia, China and Indonesia.
There are, however, indications that the arms fair is becoming more difficult to manage. The organiser, Reed Elsevier, has recently announced its intention to sell the event and in July Gordon Brown said he was going to shut down the Defence Export Sales Organisation (DESO), the part of the defence ministry which has responsibility for the arms fair. These moves have come about following sustained public pressure from a number of organisations including the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and, in the case of Reed Elsevier, the increasing unease amongst its shareholders.
Whilst these moves could signal an end for the arms fair in London they will not in themselves reduce the export of arms from the UK. The task of promoting arms exports, currently undertaken by the DESO, will soon be given to the newly named Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, where the rest of British export promotion lies. It seems Gordon Brown’s decision will simply mean business as usual.
It’s time the resources spent on marketing arms were diverted towards peaceful operations. We must face up to what the UK’s role in the arms trade means for global security and human rights abuses.”
Jean Lambert MEP