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Activists were preventing war crimes by blockading world’s biggest arms fair – judge

RT | April 15, 2016

5710de0dc3618801288b4599Eight activists standing trial for disrupting the world’s biggest arms fair, held in London last September, have been found not guilty. The court ruled they were acting to prevent a greater crime, according to an anti-arms trade group.

In his ruling, the judge said there was clear, credible and largely unchallenged evidence of wrongdoing at Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI), according to Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT).

He said there is “compelling evidence” that arms sold at DSEI are used for repression and human rights abuses.

Ham & High reporter Rachel Roberts said the judge dismissed the argument, put forward by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), that a not guilty verdict will “open floodgates” to anarchy in the UK.

Instead he accepted that all eight defendants acted reasonably and proportionally to try and prevent the sale of illegal arms and war crimes, Roberts tweeted.

The ruling is a victory for anti-arms trade activists, who sought to highlight the UK’s complicity in war crimes committed by repressive regimes around the world.

The eight activists issued a statement through CAAT in which they called on the public to join the campaign to shut down DSEI.

“Over the week, we have put DSEI and the arms trade on trial and we have proven them to be illegitimate. Our only regret is that we didn’t succeed in shutting down DSEI,” they said.

“Our thoughts are with the people who suffer as a result of the arms trade and the survivors of repressive regimes, torture, war and conflict. We call on more people to join us in our efforts to shut down DSEI 2017 and take collective action to end the arms trade.”

The campaigners were arrested after blocking the road leading to the arms fair last September, preventing tanks and weaponry from entering.

The activists used the defense of necessity, insisting their actions were justified because they intended to prevent greater crimes taking place around the world.

CAAT said the trial highlighted UK complicity in war crimes in Yemen, where the British military is offering support to the Saud-led coalition waging war against Houthi rebels.

It also raised awareness about British complicity in human rights abuses in Bahrain and the slaughter of Kurdish civilians by Turkey, according to the group.

2015’s DSEI event featured stalls from more than 1,500 exhibitors, including arms giants Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Finmeccanica and others.

Customers included representatives from Saudi Arabia, Israel, Bahrain and Egypt.

April 15, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Human rights abusers’ invited to ‘non-lethal’ weapons show, condemned by activists

RT | March 7, 2016

Activists have denounced a Home Office sponsored security fair, warning that Britain is selling tear gas and other crowd control tools to some of the world’s most oppressive regimes.

Among the governments invited to take part in the fair in Farnborough, Hampshire, 30 miles southwest of London, are Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Israel, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Turkey, the Guardian reported on Saturday.

Police and security officials from 79 countries are expected to participate in the fair later this week, according to the list, which was released under a Freedom of Information request.

Since Prime Minister David Cameron took office in 2010, the UK has approved 126 licenses connected with the sale of tear gas and other irritants, according to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT).

Also approved were 75 licenses for crowd control ammunition such as rubber bullets, 79 for “acoustic” crowd control – known as sound grenades – and 259 licenses for riot shields.

CAAT spokesman Andrew Smith told the paper: “There are serious questions to be asked about the impact of the so-called ‘non-lethal’ arms industry. These risks become even more important when these weapons are being sold to human rights abusers and dictatorships.”

“A number of the countries in attendance routinely practice torture, arbitrary detention and other appalling acts of violence. The UK should not be arming these regimes and selling them the means to oppress and kill.”

“[The event] undermines the UK’s claims to be promoting human rights while strengthening the position of repressive regimes.”

Defending the trade show, the Home Office said: “A thriving security industry is vital to help cut crime and protect the public and so it is important these products and services can be showcased and expertise shared.”

Described by organizers as “the perfect place to see the latest security equipment and technology in a secure environment,” the Security and Policy fair will be held behind closed doors, with all visitors “pre vetted to strict Home Office criteria.”

March 7, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Halt Saudi arms sales immediately, probe civilian attacks in Yemen – MPs

RT | February 3, 2016

A group of MPs have called on the British government to immediately suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia and have demanded an independent inquiry into the war in Yemen, where British arms are thought to have been used against civilians.

In a letter to Development Secretary Justine Greening, the International Development Select Committee urged the UK to cease opposing an inquiry which aims to examine potential breaches of humanitarian law by the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen.

It comes after human rights charities and anti-war groups criticized Saudi Arabia for allegedly bombing civilian targets.

The British government has sold £1 billion (US$1.45 billion) worth of arms to the Saudi government in the past year.

Last week a leaked UN report found Saudi Arabia guilty of breaking humanitarian law. In response the Saudi government set up an internal inquiry.

British MPs say the UK should back an independent inquiry. Members of the committee were shocked to hear the UK had hindered efforts to launch such an investigation in September 2015 when it was proposed by the UN.

“We need an independent, international fact-finding mission to uncover the truth. Until then we should cease selling arms to Saudi Arabia,” wrote committee chair Stephen Twigg.

“All parties to this conflict should review their obligations under international law and undertake to put civilians and humanitarian work above other interests.”

MPs said they had been presented with evidence from the head of UNICEF Yemen, who said the Saudi-led coalition had been involved in bombing campaigns which endangered the lives of civilians.

The committee’s letter was welcomed by activist group Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), which condemned the British government’s actions.

“The humanitarian situation is getting worse and the UK government has been complicit in it. We agree that arms sales need to stop, but they should never have been allowed in the first place.

“Saudi Arabia has a terrible human rights record and has been supported by governments of all political colors for far too long,” said CAAT’s Andrew Smith.

The leaked UN report, obtained by the Guardian last week, found that Saudi airstrikes are breaching international law by hitting civilian targets, including refugee camps, civilian weddings, vehicles, medical facilities and schools.

The UN panel of experts on Yemen used satellite imagery to look at areas before and after bombings, which also targeted an Oxfam warehouse storing equipment for a water project funded by the EU.

February 3, 2016 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Britain’s sale of arms to Saudi Arabia violates international law – lawyers

RT – January 11, 2016

The British government has been accused of violating international law by enabling the export of British-made arms to Saudi Arabia, which may have been used to kill civilians.

In the face of mounting evidence that Saudi forces are breaching international law in Yemen, law firm Leigh Day has challenged the government’s export of missiles and other arms to the Gulf state.

A letter issued by the firm to the government on Sunday highlights global organizations that have branded Saudi airstrikes in Yemen illegal. Among these are the European Parliament (EP) and an array of prominent human rights groups that have been monitoring Saudi Arabia’s attacks on Yemen.

Leigh Day’s 19-page letter, which was sent to the government on behalf of Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), condemns the targeting of civilians and non-combatants in Yemen, as well as the targeting of facilities vital for sustaining basic humanitarian needs. It also criticizes the disproportionate number of civilian casualties in Yemen and an overall failure to ensure unnecessary harm to civilians is avoided.

The letter says Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes have destroyed culturally significant property in Yemen, and condemns a Saudi naval blockade, which is halting the flow of essential food and medicine into the crisis-ridden state.

Despite the gravity of these allegations, the British government has refused to suspend military licenses governing arms’ exports to the Gulf state. It has also failed to call for an inquiry into whether Saudi Arabia has violated international law.

Leigh Day called on the government to confirm whether or not it accepts there is concrete evidence that Saudi Arabia’s conduct in Yemen has breached international law. It also urged the government to verify if Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) Sajid Javid will suspend Britain’s sale of arms to Saudi Arabia until a full review of their legality is carried out.

Leigh Day also urged Javid not to authorize further export licenses for Saudi Arabia until the inquiry is completed.

The law firm asked for a full response to its letter within two weeks. Failure to do this would spark legal proceedings against the government, forcing it to explain in the high court what steps it has undertaken to ensure British arms are not being used in violation of international law.

A BIS spokesperson confirmed the department’s receipt of the letter, but told the Guardian it would not comment on the matter because of “ongoing legal action.”

Leigh Day human rights lawyer Rosa Curling said the government has a legal duty to ensure arms and technological equipment exported from Britain are used in accordance with international law.

“Given the widespread and credible evidence that the Saudi authorities are breaching their international obligations in Yemen, we can see no credible basis upon which the UK government can lawfully continue to export arms to them,” she said.

“We hope our client’s letter will cause the government to reconsider its position and suspend all licenses with immediate effect pending a proper investigation into the issue.”

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) warns that British weapons are central to the military campaign that has “killed thousands of people, destroyed vital infrastructure and inflamed tensions in the region.”

“The UK has been complicit in the destruction by continuing to support airstrikes and provide arms, despite strong and increasing evidence that war crimes are being committed,” he said.

“These arms sales should never have been approved in the first place. The Saudi regime has an appalling human rights record and always has done.”

Leigh Day’s legal maneuver highlights Britain’s lucrative arms trade with Saudi Arabia. Almost £6 billion worth of British arms have been licensed to the Gulf state since Prime Minister David Cameron took office in 2010.

There was pressure to suspend the UK’s military exports to Saudi Arabia in July 2015, but the government flatly refused. Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood told parliament at the time the government had seen no credible evidence indicating the Saudi-led coalition had acted illegally.

By contrast, Amnesty International warned of the coalition’s disgraceful disregard for civilian lives. The UN also expressed similar concern.

January 11, 2016 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment