British government welcomes dictatorships at London arms fair

This video from Britain says about itself:

Bennett on Syria: Focus on humanitarian aid, ban London Arms Fair, scrap Trident

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett addressed the Syria demonstration in London on August 31st 2013, after the House of Commons voted against the Coalition’s military intervention plans and before President Obama’s decision to seek approval from Congress for US intervention.

From the Campaign Against Arms Trade in Britain:

9 September 2013

DSEi guest list reveals government will host dictators at arms fair

Dictatorships and authoritarian regimes which routinely abuse human rights have received government invitations to attend the London arms fair, Defence & Security Equipment international (DSEi).

They include major arms customers from the Middle East and North Africa, among them Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, the UK’s largest customer for weaponry. New to the list are Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan while Libya, one of the few countries omitted from the 2011 list, has also received an invitation.

Nine of the invitees are identified by the UK Foreign Office as countries with the most serious wide-ranging human rights concerns. These are Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

The list was released by the United Kingdom Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation, the government’s arms sales unit, on 9 September, a day before DSEi opens its doors for business.

Despite multiple requests from Campaign Against Arms Trade and journalists, the government had refused to release the names earlier on the grounds that it could potentially offend some governments which had not yet received an invitation. Campaigners claim the government is attempting to avoid the outcry the list has caused in previous years.

There have already been a series of protests against DSEi, including hundreds of people blockading the gates, preventing the entrance of ships and armoured vehicles. Further protests are planned in central London and elsewhere.

Sarah Waldron, from Campaign Against Arms Trade, said:

This list reads like a roll call of authoritarian regimes and human rights abusers. The UK government has condemned the terrible violence in Syria – yet it is still inviting other brutal dictators to an arms fair. When they make their deals they are not just buying weapons – they are also buying the UK’s silence on their appalling human rights records.

Maryam Al-Khawaja, Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said:

Considering the current situation in the Middle East, it is time for governments which claim to respect human rights and democracy to stop supplying arms to governments such as Bahrain, which is committing rampant human rights violations on a daily basis. Inviting Bahrain to the arms fair can also be construed as offering support for the crackdown and sending a message of business as usual.

Hamza Hamouchene from Algeria Solidarity Campaign (ASC), said:

It is outrageous that these arms fairs continue to take place and go on fuelling wars and conflicts and causing so much human suffering all over the world. It is also scandalous that brutal dictatorships like Algeria are invited to such fairs. How can the West preach the discourse of respecting human rights and promoting democracy when it colludes and arms these repressive regimes, which go and repress their own people? Arms sales to Algeria must absolutely stop!


For further information contact CAAT at or call 020 7281 0297 or 07990 673 232. Photos are available here.


  1. The DSEi invitation list includes the following countries: Afghanistan (new invitee), Algeria, Angola, Bahrain, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Turkmenistan (new invitee), United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan (new invitee). Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Saudi Arabia are ranked 161-163 out of 167 in the Economist Democracy Index. A full list can be found here.
  2. Not on the official invitation list were Egypt, which was invited in 2011 despite being in the midst of unrest – one month later 28 people were killed by security forces at Maspero – and Syria, last invited in 2003. However, the Russian Technologies State Corporation (ROSTEC) which owns Rosoboronexport, Syria’s main arms supplier, will be at DSEi. Nor was Nigeria, a past invitee, included.
  3. Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi) is one of the world’s biggest arms fairs and has been held biennially in the ExCel centre in East London’s Docklands since 1999. DSEi receives major financial, logistical and political support from the UK government, most notably through UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation. The last DSEi in 2011 invited delegations from Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and Saudi Arabia, countries which have turned their weapons on civilian protesters. The fair will also host:
  4. In July, the House of Commons’ Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) said that there is an inherent conflict between strongly promoting arms exports to authoritarian regimes whilst strongly criticising their lack of human rights at the same time and asked the Government to acknowledge the contradiction. Last month Prime Minister David Cameron met with Bahrain’s autocratic King Hamad to discuss a potential deal for BAE‘s Typhoon jets. Cameron talked of ongoing political reform in Bahrain even though the King had, that day, issued a decree banning protests.
  5. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) in the UK works to end the international arms trade. The arms business has a devastating impact on human rights and society and damages economic development. Large-scale military procurement and arms exports only reinforce a militaristic approach to international problems. In 2012, CAAT was awarded a Right Livelihood Award, the alternative Nobel Prize for its innovative and effective campaigning against the arms trade.

22 thoughts on “British government welcomes dictatorships at London arms fair

  1. U.S. arms sales actually undermine many U.S. foreign policy goals by providing physical and political support to the Turkish military at the expense of democratically elected leaders and civil society. The Turkish military’s 15-year war against the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in southeast Turkey has involved severe violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force. The war has served as an excuse to repress political leaders, journalists, and human rights activists seeking greater rights for Kurds and a peaceful end to the war. Additionally, in the name of protecting a strictly secular society, the Turkish military uses its inordinate power to suppress religious expression and mild political Islamic activism.


    • Thanks for your comment. Not just United States arms sales, also other countries’ arms sales often undermine democracy.

      In Turkey, the problem is not just undemocratic tendencies in the armed forces. Also in the Erdogan government, violently oppressing the Gezi park pro-democracy movement, and stoking war in Syria.


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