Protests challenge London arms bazaar

Thousands of protesters are gearing up to challenge the UK’s biggest ever arms exhibition

Defence Systems Equipment International (DSEI) 9-12th September 2003, ExCeL Centre, London Docklands

London Docklands could be brought to a standstill in September as thousands of protesters challenge a huge arms bazaar.

Arms buyers from Syria, Pakistan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Colombia, Lebanon, Bulgaria and Kenya were invited to attend the last DSEI London arms bazaar, in September 2001.

More than 600 arms companies and suppliers have already booked stands at DSEI 2003, making it the UK’s biggest ever arms fair. Government ministers are expected to attend the fair, which is funded by the Ministry of Defence.

Almost one third of the world’s countries will attend this international arms bazaar. It’s absolutely scandalous that British tax payers are being forced to contribute hundreds of thousands of pounds to help some of the world’s most dangerous states sell weapons on our doorstep, said Martin Hogbin, campaigns co-ordinator at Campaign Against Arms Trade.

Our government likes to project itself as a force for good in the world. The reality is that by hosting this arms fair, the UK has become an international force for hypocrisy. That’s why thousands of ordinary people will protest against the London arms bazaar.

How to apply for your press pass into the arms fair

The DSEI 2003 arms fair is open only to arms buyers and sellers, but some journalists can to attend if they apply in advance. In previous years, journalists have uncovered the illegal promotion of anti-personnel landmines at DSEI.

To apply for your press pass, visit the exhibition website at, click on online registration. Put in your email address, and fill in the form. DSEI have rejected bona fide journalists in the past, but you can appeal the decision if that happens. Contact the DSEI office on 020 8949 9898.

Protests and actions planned, with dates

There is already huge UK and international interest in the events planned against the London arms bazaar. Protesters are coming to London from all over the country, and others are expected from Italy, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany.

Planned events include a mass demonstration in central London, a Facing the Arms Traders protest at London Docklands, a counter-conference, and non-violent direct actions.

The movement against London’s arms bazaar has grown so strong that other groups are arranging their own events and protests. They include Disarm DSEI, East London Against the Arms Fair (local community), London Reclaim the Streets and Critical Mass.

  • 2nd Sept – CAAT publishes ground breaking new report on the London arms bazaar.
  • 5th Sept (am) – Press conference (all media welcome), central London.
  • 6th Sept – Mass demonstration, begins at Embankment.
  • 7th & 8th Sept – Conference against the arms fair, with workshops run by supporting groups and other activists working against DSEI 2003.
  • 8th Sept – Multi-faith silent vigil.
  • 9th SeptFacing the Arms Traders, peaceful demonstration at Custom House DLR station.
  • 10th SeptDay of Direct Action Blockades.
  • 11th Sept – Demonstration at DSEI delegates gala dinner, central London.
  • 6th – 12th Sept – Other protests and events at the arms fair, and at other sites.
Scandals at previous london arms bazaar

DSEI 2003 at London Docklands is the third time this arms bazaar has taken place, and both of the previous times it has been mired in scandal.

At DSEI 1999, when the exhibition took place at both London Docklands and at Chertsey in Surrey, investigative journalists uncovered two separate breaches of the international landmines act.

At DSEI 1999, a Romanian arms firm had brochures on their stall for anti-personnel landmines, weapons which were banned by the act. The firm later admitted to the British government they were there. An investigative journalist was told by the firm’s salesmen the equipment could be supplied, even though it was against the law.

In December of the same year, it emerged that another arms manufacture, Pakistan Ordnance Factories, had offered anti-personnel landmines for sale after meeting undercover journalists at the DSEI arms fair. The resulting documentary revealed the journalists were offered anti-personnel landmines, as well as thousands of small arms for shipment to Sudan.

At DSEI 2001, which took place at the new ExCeL conference centre at London Docklands, countries sent delegates to buy arms on British soil which were later condemned as sponsoring terrorism by both US President Bush, and Prime Minister Blair. As well as arms buyers from Syria and Pakistan, countries known to have terrible human rights records were also invited to shop in London for arms. They included: Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Algeria and Israel.

For more information, images and interviews, contact CAAT’s Media Co-ordinator.

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