British government selling weapons to Bahrain, other dictatorships

This video says about itself:

Will UK End Arms Trade With Saudi Arabia Over Raif Badawi?

9 June 2015

Britain has been urged by campaigners to stop supplying arms to Saudi Arabia, which is currently the UK’s largest arms export market, after blogger Raif Badawi’s sentence of 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison was upheld by the Saudi supreme court. Badawi was arrested in 2012 for “insulting Islam through electronic channels.” We look at the story on the Lip News with Elliot Hill and Mark Sovel.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Marc Owen Jones

Tuesday 15 September 2015

The more appalling the human rights record, the better the customer at London’s arms fair

May 2015: It was my first time in court, and I was trying to get information on the seedier side of Bahrain’s relationship with the UK. I was the appellant. Also present was Edward Oakden, a senior British diplomat defending the Foreign Office’s Decision to withhold sensitive information on Bahrain from 1977. The official reason? The release of such information would ‘prejudice’ Bahrain’s relationship with the UK. The reason I suspected? Most likely Britain were still desperate to sell BAE Systems’ Eurofighters to Bahrain, and any hint of embarrassing the Bahrain government might jeopardise their chances of doing that. Arms sales were a big deal, literally.

Fast forward to September 2015, when 32,000 arms dealers are expected to attend the ExCel centre in London for the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI). With BAE Systems as the ‘Platinum’ sponsor, this was the biggest DSEI to date, reflecting David Cameron’s ‘tireless’ promotion of the UK arms industry abroad.

As a response, Stop the Arms Fair, a coalition of anti-arms fair individuals and organisations, organised a week of action to prevent weapons getting to the ExCel Centre in London ahead of the event’s opening on the 15th. On Saturday, peaceful activists succeeded in delaying weapon-laden trucks for four hours before being removed, sometimes forcibly, by police.

A gatecrashed a banquet for arms dealers because death shouldn’t be business as usual

US-Gulf summit: Both sides understand the need to stay friends

It is hardly surprising people are angry. The British government’s eagerness to boost arms sales meant they invited numerous states with appalling human rights records to DSEI. In fact, it seems that the more appalling the human rights record, or the less democratic the country, the better the customer. Of the top 8 buyers of UK arms, 4 of them are authoritarian states with atrocious human rights records according to Amnesty International.

Furthermore, of the 61 countries invited to this year’s DSEI, a quarter of them are ‘authoritarian’ according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index. These include all the Gulf countries: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and UAE. And let’s not forget the slightly less wealthy Bahrain, a tiny monarchy with an oppressive regime which has engaged in human rights abuses throughout the past four years that include systematic torture, extra-judicial killing, enforced disappearances, and the weaponisation of tear gas. Bahrain’s invitation to the DSEI highlights how the UK continues to play ‘the dirty role of matchmaker between trader and torturer.’

Such matchmaking is, however, lucrative. The GCC countries, all of whom are ranked by Freedom House as authoritarian, make excellent customers. Bahrain has bought £77 million worth of military equipment and dual use equipment off the UK since 2011. The UAE, a tiny country with deep pockets, has spent a staggering £6.3 billion on both military and dual use equipment in the same period, making it the UK’s biggest arms customer.

More shocking still is that Saudi Arabia, the second largest importer of UK arms, whose arms imports from the UK totalled £3.8 billion between 2011 – 2015, was noted by Freedom House to be among the 12 ‘worst of the worst’ countries in terms of civil and political rights. It was also ranked 161 out of 167 on the Democracy Index. (To put things into perspective, North Korea was 167). Despite this alarming ranking, the DSEI will be a forum for further exploiting the lucrative Saudi market, and there will be a keynote speech providing a ‘comprehensive assessment of the Saudi market place and how best to establish and develop [one’s] business in the Kingdom.’

This insensitive lecture, planned to be delivered by retired British officer Brigadier Jim Tanner, comes at a time when the Gulf is riddled with conflict. The GCC states (with the exception of Oman) are embroiled in a war in Yemen that has resulted in at least 4,000 deaths since it began in March 2015. Oxfam have argued that the UK is fuelling the war in Yemen by its ongoing arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Newly elected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also criticised UK arms sales to the Gulf, stating that British arms sales to the region are probably fuelling Isis, and therefore destabilising the entire Middle East.

It is therefore imperative that the UK suspend arms supplies to parties engaged directly in the Yemen conflict. Failure to do so will not only make our country complicit in the deaths of innocent civilians, but it will also lead to further destabilisation of a region that has already suffered so much at the hands of western interferers.

Marc Owen Jones is a member of Bahrain Watch and co-editor with Ala’a Shehabi of Bahrain’s Uprising: Resistance and Repression in the Gulf (Zed Books, 2015)

World’s Largest Arms Fair Sees U.K. Open Its Doors to Authoritarian Regimes: here.

An Amnesty International expert says he was barred from the London Arms Fair: here.

A rogue’s gallery of the world’s despots and war criminals descended on London last week, at the invitation of the British government. They were attending the Defence and Security Equipment International Exhibition (DSEI): here.

2015-09-14: Thirty-two countries raise alarm over rights situation in Bahrain: here.

A British-Bahraini man who says he was tortured in Bahrain in 2010 has filed a criminal complaint in Switzerland against Bahrain’s attorney general, who was visiting Zurich for an international conference, the man’s supporters said on Tuesday: here.

32 thoughts on “British government selling weapons to Bahrain, other dictatorships

  1. A old story, Corbyns policy to terminate supplies of weapons is a new ideology, whether it is like America’s gun lobby that many American gun deaths are not going to deter ongoing deaths through political change is questionable, the weapon fraternity is the financial elite and will become a historical change that is doubtful of significant change? the elite of the politics of the front and the covert of British rulers, will not change without at least a psychic fight to the death.


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  3. THIS week I visited Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI), Britain’s biggest arms fair. It’s an amazing achievement — a full sized weapons bazaar erected minutes away from the centre of London. You can even buy a second- hand helicopter out the back, and they are displaying full-sized battleships for sale.

    It is a deeply disturbing event, as most of the finely made goods on display are designed to kill people. It is also, like so much of the “free market,” very heavily backed by our tax money.

    The arms marketplace relies on a lot of government support. That support includes turning our armed forces into a sales force whose job is to help repressive foreign governments buy weapons. Each visiting delegation is given a British uniformed officer whose job is to act as a “personal shopper” for Middle Eastern and other buyers.

    DSEI, which takes place at the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands, offers two huge halls of stalls offering everything from rifles to robot killer “tanks,” from drones to missiles and beyond.

    If you look properly you can see that it is a state-supported market. The government has a department, UK Trade and Industry (UKTI), which helps businesses sell abroad. They have a dedicated arms sales unit, the Defence and Security Organisation (DSO).

    The UKTI DSO hosts a huge stall which uses a mock-up of British operations in the deserts of Afghanistan or Iraq to sell rockets, armoured vehicles and the like to visiting delegations.

    The DSO used to be more honestly called the Defence Sales Organisation, and was formerly part of the Ministry of Defence (MOD). It was moved to the Trade Ministry to cover up embarrassment over British soldiers being used as salesmen for British firms selling weapons to foreign armies, after this threw up scandals like the “arms to Iraq” affair.

    However, this split from the MoD is very cosmetic. At DSEI the UKTI DSO “lounge” is jointly hosted by the MoD. The British government invites over 50 delegations from foreign countries to buy kit at DSEI. These include delegations from repressive Middle Eastern regimes like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

    You can see the delegations on the floor of DSEI examining the weapons in the booths — groups of men, sometimes in uniforms, sometimes in suits. Each is accompanied by a British officer from the army, navy or air force. These officers are in smart “no.2 service dress” associated with formal duties. They are “military escort officers,” given by the army to the foreign arms buyers to help them with their visit. They escort them round the halls and to and from their hotels. So while the press has made a big fuss about who sings “patriotic” songs, our armed forces are being used as personal shoppers for foreign dictators on the lookout for deadly weapons.,-get-a-Personal-Shopper#.VfxVpZeKY5s


    • Is the free market to sell arms? extends to those who are British subjects residing in Britain allowed to buy arms? is the the free market only a export trade in arms if so why is it a free market?


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