Eight activists are standing trial at Stratford Magistrates Court for disrupting the world’s biggest arms fair, held in London, where deadly merchandise was marketed to repressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Azerbaijan.
The campaigners blocked the road leading to the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) in Stratford, London, last September, preventing tanks and weaponry from entering.
The defendants are using a defense of necessity, insisting their actions were justified because they intended to prevent greater crimes taking place around the world.
These include: “The sale of weapons to internally repressive regimes, including Bahrain and Saudi Arabia; the sale of weapons to countries imminently at war and overtly complicit in ongoing war crimes in Yemen, Kurdistan and Palestine; the sale of weapons to regimes that have been widely accused of arming ISIS [Islamic State or IS]; the promotion for sale of weapons that are designed specifically for torture or banned under international law for their capabilities concerning the mass indiscriminate killing of civilians.”
The DSEI arms fair is held every two years in London, and is regularly attended by representatives from repressive regimes. It has also previously provided a platform for weapons dealers to illegally promote arms that are used for torture.
Last September’s event featured stalls from more than 1,500 exhibitors, including arms giants Lockheed Martin, BAE systems, Finmeccanica and others.
Protestors sought to disrupt the fair by locking their bodies together to block access roads outside the Excel Centre, where the fair was held. Several were arrested.
Some protestors, such as Vyara Gylsen – who was arrested after writing a slogan on a military vehicle with a washable marker pen – have since seen criminal charges against them dropped.
The defendants in court this week include Isa Al Aali, a Bahraini activist who was tortured during the Arab Spring uprising in Bahrain.
Green Party activists Angela Ditchfield and Tom Franklin are also among the eight appearing in court.
“The government is supporting and facilitating the sale of weapons that are being used to kill ordinary people, from the West Bank to Yemen and Sudan,” Franklin, 57, of York, said.
“This week we will put the arms trade in the dock and highlight the crimes that the government and the companies at DSEI are complicit in. Arrest arms dealers, not peace campaigners.”
The defendants will be supported by expert witnesses, including former South African MP Andrew Feinstein, who resigned from parliament in 2001 in protest at the government’s refusal to investigate a £5 billion (US$7.12 billion) arms deal.
Amnesty International UK’s Oliver Sprague, who heads up the charity’s arms Control and Policing division, will also give oral evidence, as will Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy director Sayed Ahmed, who seeks to improve accountability in the repressive Gulf state.
The share prices of major international arms traders jumped in the wake of the British parliament’s decision to extend its aerial bombing campaign against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) from Iraq into Syria.
Stock values at BAE Systems, Airbus, Finmeccanica and Thales all soared as trading began on Thursday morning, CommonSpace reports. It comes as Britain prepares to spend millions more on its war with IS, and as an international collaboration against the terror group looks ever more likely.
BAE Systems leapt four points at the start of trading on Thursday. The jump comes as the arms trader’s value increased by 14 percent following the terror attacks in Paris which left 130 dead and over 300 injured.
Britain announced it is boosting its military spending and introducing a range of new security measures in the wake of the Paris attacks.
Aircraft firm Airbus, which develops the British Typhoon fighter jet, is also trading 1.5 percent up since the stock market opened on Thursday.
Italian arms dealer Finmeccanica has also seen its shares rise by 2 percent.
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade told CommonSpace that arms companies are cashing in on the bloodshed.
“Unfortunately, where most of us see war and destruction, the arms companies see a business opportunity. It is conflict and military intervention that fuel arms sales, and companies like BAE are only too happy to cash in from it. These companies don’t care who uses their weapons or the damage they cause, the only thing they care about is profit.”
Prime Minister David Cameron warned on Thursday that British military action in Syria will be complex and take a long time.
“This is going to take time. It is complex and it is difficult what we are asking our pilots to do, and our thoughts should be with them and their families as they commence this important work,” he added.
On Wednesday evening British bombers hit seven IS targets in eastern Syria, including oil fields used to supply the terror group with vital funds.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the airstrikes had dealt IS “a real blow,” and added that British planes would not initially be targeting urban areas like Raqqa.
“I can confirm that four British Tornados were in action after the vote last night attacking oil fields in eastern Syria – the Omar oil fields – from which the Daesh (IS) terrorists receive a huge part of their revenue.”
“This strikes a very real blow at the oil and the revenue on which the Daesh terrorists depend,” he told the BBC.
The recent events in Paris were undoubtedly horrific, and our thoughts are with those affected by these atrocious acts. The victims and their families, innocent people who did not volunteer to fight in any war, these defenseless civilians were attacked in the most heinous way possible.
And while the world’s media turns its gaze to Paris, there is another act of terrorism happening every day that the corporate media chooses to ignore.
It seems the main export of the USA and UK is terrorism, but sugar coated and wrapped in the PR-friendly guise of ‘promoting democracy’ and ‘protecting our freedoms’, making the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians easier to swallow, or more frequently, completely ignore.
Perhaps ironically then, is the fact that these acts are of course illegal and a violation of international law, and the sad truth is that these rouge nations, the USA and UK themselves are the biggest threats to freedom and democracy. We are witnessing doublespeak in action.
To date, the USA has been responsible for the deaths of at least 20 million people since the end of World War II, in 37 nations. A report by James A. Lucas of Counter Currents explains:
This study reveals that U.S. military forces were directly responsible for about 10 to 15 million deaths during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the two Iraq Wars. The Korean War also includes Chinese deaths while the Vietnam War also includes fatalities in Cambodia and Laos.
The American public probably is not aware of these numbers and knows even less about the proxy wars for which the United States is also responsible. In the latter wars there were between nine and 14 million deaths in Afghanistan, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, East Timor, Guatemala, Indonesia, Pakistan and Sudan.
These figures do not include the full figures of more recent violations, such as drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan.
Statistics obtained by the Bureau Investigates reveal that approximately 2,464 – 7,177 people have been murdered in these nations. It is also estimated that 90% of those killed in these attacks are innocent civilians.
Make no mistake, each one of these 500-plus drone strikes is nothing less than a tax-payer funded terrorist attack.
At the time of publication, there are also a high number of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan as a result of the illegal invasions, which has cost in excess of a staggering $1,500,000,000,000.
This means nothing to the corporations who profit from global terrorism.
While the little amount of corporate media coverage that is devoted to exposing profiteering remains largely focused on oil firms, there are trillions of dollars being made in the supply of arms.
Companies such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and BAE Systems as well as many others – often with government connections, are raking in billions of dollars from government contracts.
For example, Lockheed Martin received $36 billion in contracts in a single year.
So while my heart goes out to the victims and families of those affected by the despicable acts carried out in Paris, should we not also turn our outrage and contempt for these cowardly acts towards our own governments – who not only obliterate innocent lives on a daily basis, but actually allow profiteering from mass-murder, resulting in a never-ending cycle of destruction that we’re funding with our taxes.
The ending of terrorism begins with us.
Israeli soldiers have shot teargas and sound grenades at children who cross checkpoints 29 and 209 on their way to school in the morning on seven of the last eight school days.
International observers and human rights workers in Hebron have witnessed Israeli soldiers repeatedly firing grenades and sound bombs into the streets near these checkpoints while children are walking to school. The children attend several schools located both in the Old City and in the area of Hebron designated as H2, on the other side of the checkpoints, and include preschool students as young as four. Depending on where they live and which school they attend, children must cross these checkpoints in both directions to reach schools both inside the old city and in H2.
Because the Israeli military does not allow buses that transport younger children to preschool and kindergarten classes in H2 to cross the checkpoints, very young children living in the Old City must walk through these checkpoint areas in order to reach their school buses.
At times, the use of teargas by soldiers has been in response to several children throwing stones, but internationals have also witnessed soldiers firing teargas canisters without provocation. In any event, because so many children pass through the same area to reach school at the same time, hundreds of children, many of them in primary grades, suffer the effects of gas on an almost daily basis. Additionally, because the agents used to manufacture teargas are actually solids, they remain inside shops, on clothing, and in the streets where children walk and play throughout the day.
Although the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) prohibits the use of teargas and pepper spray in warfare, domestic police and state forces are allowed to use these weapons on people as “riot control” agents.
Tear gas is a non-lethal chemical weapon that stimulates the corneal nerves in the eyes to cause tears, pain—which can be extreme, immediate and severe nausea, and even blindness. Longer term effects include persistent coughing, shortness of breath, and other lung-related problems (heightened in people who already have lung problems), heart and liver damage, delayed menstruation, and an increase in miscarriages and stillbirths in women exposed to the gas. The NGO Physicians for Human Rights believes that “‘tear gas’ is a misnomer for a group of poisonous gases which, far from being innocuous, have serious acute and longer-term adverse effects on the health of significant numbers of those exposed.”
In addition to the effects of the gas, the teargas cartridges fired by soldiers can cause serious injury and even death if they strike people, especially if soldiers fire the cartridges straight into crowds rather than into the air. Internationals and Palestinians report having seen soldiers fire teargas straight into the roads near these checkpoints.
The teargas used on school children in Hebron comes primarily from the United States and is manufactured primarily by Combined Systems Inc. of Jamestown, Pennsylvania and Defense Technology of Casper, Wyoming. Combined Systems Inc. (CSI)—often manufacturing under the brand name Combined Tactical Systems (CTS) are owned by Point Lookout Capital and the Carlyle Group. CSI is the primary supplier of tear gas to the Israeli military as well as a provider to Israel’s police (and border police) for use in occupied Palestine.
Defense Technology is headquartered in Casper, Wyoming. Along with U.S. company Federal Laboratories, with which it shares a product line, it has links to the U.K. arms giant BAE Systems through BAE’s ownership of U.S. arms company Armor Holdings.
The War Resisters League has launched a campaign to abolish teargas, and to encourage people who have been impacted by its use to tell their stories. The campaign seeks “the global ban of tear gas by first ending the sale, manufacture, and shipment of tear gas made in the US through organizing and applying grassroots pressure on
- companies that produce the gas,
- the US government agencies that approve the export licenses for the sale of tear gas,
- US government officials who allow for the sale and transfer of tear gas to repressive regimes abroad,
- the prison and police forces within in the US who use tear gas and similar chemical weapons such as pepper spray to threaten, injure, and torture people.”
To learn more about teargas in Palestine and throughout the world, or to add your story to the campaign, visit facingteargas.org
Press TV – December 10, 2012
The British Ministry of Defense (MoD) has signed a £1.2 billion contract with the arms-producer BAE Systems to build the navy a new nuclear submarine.
The submarine dubbed HMS Audacious is the fourth of seven Astute Class vessels that the MoD has ordered for the Royal Navy.
The ministry has also allocated another £1.5 billion for the rest of the Astute-class submarines.
The Royal Navy has touted the submarines as the most advanced at their service yet recent tests have raised serious questions about their applicability.
The first of the seven submarines named HMS Astute failed its sea trials last month after it was forced to resurface due to flooding problems that let tens of liters of water in.
The submarine also faced problems with its electrical instruments while its nuclear reactor monitoring systems also raised accuracy concerns.
- Troubled Astute submarine programme to get another £2.7bn (guardian.co.uk)
British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond is to announce a multi-million pound contract for a new generation of nuclear missile submarines indicating Britain’s resolve to push ahead with its disputed Trident nuclear system replacement program.
The Ministry of Defense (MoD) said the £350 million contract makes “clear the government’s firm commitment to maintaining continuous at-sea deterrence for future decades.”
The announcement comes as the British government’s study into a like-for-like Trident replacement is not even complete.
Those opposing the nukes replacement, including junior coalition partners in the Liberal Democrat camp, argue that a like-for-like replacement will be hugely expensive.
The Cabinet Office study, which apparently seeks to find a cheaper and scaled-down replacement for Trident, is now running under the supervision of the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and is expected to report results early next year.
The planned new fleet of Trident submarines is officially estimated to cost up to £25 billion but anti-nukes campaign group Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) has put the real cost of a full replacement at more than £100 billion.
The £350 million contract is part of the £3 billion awarded last year to BAE Systems to pursue work on a new Trident fleet.
The Conservative Defense Secretary has already said that the government is committed to keeping “our continuous submarine-based deterrence.”
Lib Dems have formerly attacked the talks of a nuclear “deterrence” based on Trident or a like-for-like system saying Trident was designed to counter the threats of the Soviet Union, which has long perished.
- Is a like-for-like Trident replacement a good idea? | Poll (guardian.co.uk)
- Con-Dems put extra £350m into Trident (morningstaronline.co.uk)
Highly secret documents related to the Anglo-French project aimed at building Europe’s assassination drones have been stolen at the Gare du Nord station in Paris.
A briefcase containing highly confidential documents relating to the Anglo-French assassination drone project has been stolen from a senior French executive.
The senior executive from Dassault Aviation, a French manufacturer of military jets, was on his way to London when two people, possibly linked to “a highly-sophisticated operation by a spy agency” as described by the French police, stole the documents.
Britain and France agreed to carry out a joint project aimed at building a new generation of assassination drones, known as Male (medium altitude long endurance) drones, by 2020.
British arms giant BAE Systems and Dassault Aviation are to launch the joint venture so that the new assassination drones will fly over Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of the US and Britain’s so-called “War on Terror.”
British anti-arms campaigners have severely criticized the Anglo-French project as they describe the assassination drones as “the latest ‘must have’ weapon system” that Britain is “desperate” to build.
“Drones are the latest ‘must have’ weapon system and it is important they say, that the UK keeps up with the US and Israel in this key market,” said Drone Wars UK in a statement.
- UK to complement US ‘Drone Wars’ (nation.com.pk)