Arms fair opens today in London Docklands with official delegations from repressive, warring states

The DSEI arms fair opens in London Docklands 14 September 2021. The list of countries invited by the government to attend the arms fair includes many repressive regimes and countries involved in armed conflict.

  • UK Government reveals list of countries officially invited to send delegations to DSEI arms fair by UK Defence & Security Exports
  • List includes 6 countries on FCDO list of human rights priority countries, and 11 rated “Not Free” by Freedom House
  • Mass protests expected as DSEI opens at Excel Center in London Docklands

In a response to a Parliamentary Question from Caroline Lucas MP (Green, Brighton Pavillion), the UK Government has revealed a list of 61 countries (as well as NATO) invited by UK Defence and Security Exports to send official delegations to the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair which opens today on Tuesday 14th September at the Excel Center in the London Borough of Newham.

Many of the invited countries raise major concerns relating to human rights, conflict, and/or corruption in the military sector – in some cases all three. (See further info below). Six countries: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, are on the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s list of human rights priority countries for 2020. Saudi Arabia continues to pursue a devastating war in Yemen, and continues to receive UK arms in spite of calls from the UN’s Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen to cease all arms supplies to the warring parties.

Hundreds of protestors from groups associated with the Stop the Arms Fair network are expected outside the Excel Center on Tuesday, voicing a widespread disgust that the arms fair is allowed to take place, especially in the midst of a city that is host to so many communities originating in countries that have been devastated by the conflict and repression the arms trade fuels. London Mayor Sadiq Khan and leading Catholic Bishops in England & Wales and Scotlandare among those who have condemned the DSEI arms fair.

Dr. Samuel Perlo-Freeman of Campaign Against Arms Trade said:

“The list of countries by the UK Government to send official delegations to DSEI, with the express purpose of bringing them together with the UK’s and the world’s leading arms dealers, shows they are not serious about arms export controls, or global peace. human rights, or good governance. The arms deals sealed at DSEI will make the world a more dangerous place.”

For more information, please contact Siana Bangura (siana@caat.org.uk) or Sam Perlo-Freeman (sam@caat.org.uk) or call 020 72810297.
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Repressive regimes

The list includes 6 countries on the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)’s own watch list of human rights priority countries for 2020: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.

Moreover, eleven of the invited countries (of which 4 are on the FCDO list) were rated “Not Free” by Freedom House’s Freedom in the World index for 2020: Angola, Bahrain, Brunei, Egypt, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam.

Armed conflict

Many invited countries are engaged in deadly armed conflicts. Notably, Saudi Arabia continues to pursue a devastating war in Yemen that had caused an estimated 233,000 deaths from violence, hunger and disease by the end of 2020. The UN Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen last week reiterated its call on all UN members to end arms supplies to the warring parties, including UK arms supplies to Saudi Arabia. Earlier in September, a report by Mwatana for Human Rights and Global Rights Compliance accused both the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and the Houthi rebels of using starvation as a weapon of war in the conflict.

Numerous other invitees were involved in armed conflict in 2020, including Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria, Philippines, Turkey, and Ukraine, based on data from the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK).

Corruption

A major factor in the collapse of Afghanistan’s armed forces to the Taliban following the US military withdrawal was the systematic corruption in the Afghan government and military, fuelled by huge US military aid provided without meaningful controls. Yet, seven invited countries had military sectors rated as a “Critical” corruption risk (rating ‘F’) by Transparency International Defence & Security in their Government Defence Integrity Index for 2020: Angola, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia; while another two, Kuwait and Nigeria, were rated ‘E’ for a “very high” corruption risk.

As the Transparency index has not yet covered all regions (notably Asia and Latin America), similar concerns may well apply to other countries on the list.

The full list of invited countries is:

  • Angola
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Belgium
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Brunei
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Egypt
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iraq
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Kenya
  • Kuwait
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Morocco
  • Mozambique
  • NATO
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Nigeria
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Qatar
  • Romania
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • USA
  • Vietnam

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