Posts Tagged ‘QinetiQ’


The DSEI arms fair starts in London

This bi-annual event held in London receives a considerable amount of opposition and is a place for protest against the arms trade.  The description of the event by the organisers is blandness itself:

World leading event that brings together the global defence and security sectors to innovate and share knowledge.

It paints a picture of people coming together in some kind of seminar format to discuss defence issues as though it is a think-tank.  The reality is a little different as it is a place where all kinds of weapons manufacturers can display and secure deals to a wide range of countries who come to visit.  If it is as benign as the description implies one has to ask why organisations like Amnesty are denied access?  The purpose is to sell arms and to quote the organising company:

It’s a model that works well in the Middle East…There’s a lot of money being spent here in the UAE on homeland security technology, so it’s a good market in which to roll out our brand

Among the invitees are countries with highly dubious and questionable human rights records.  These include according to the guest list: Brunei, Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and UAE.  If we look at Bahrain in particular, a recent Amnesty report on the country published earlier this year concluded, inter alia:

Since June 2016, the Bahraini authorities have dramatically stepped up their crackdown on dissent. As a result, by June 2017, Bahrain’s formerly thriving civil society had found itself reduced to a few lone voices brave enough to speak out.  The majority of peaceful critics, whether they are human rights defenders or political activists, now feel the risk of doing so has become too high. Over the course of a year, the authorities increasingly resorted to a wide range of repressive tactics including arrest, harassment, threats, prosecution and imprisonment to silence peaceful critics.  Amnesty International’s research concludes that the security forces have even resorted to torturing or otherwise ill-treating human rights defenders, both men and women, a practice that has not been prevalent in Bahrain since the height of the crackdown that followed the 2011 uprising.

The report went onto to describe how Bahrain has backtracked on reform and noted that in the period June 2016 to June 2017, 169 critics or relatives have been arrested, summonsed, interrogated, prosecuted, imprisoned, banned from travel or threatened.  Freedom of expression is increasingly criminalised and the opposition party has in effect been dismantled.  The report was compiled after a large number of interviews were carried out including with 52 victims, 58 journalists, lawyers and others, and the investigation of 210 cases.

The British government has worked hard to promote our interests with Bahrain and a Daily Mail article in 2016 detailed the many links from the Queen down through the rest of the Royal Family.  Theresa May visited recently.

As far as the Arms fair DSEI itself is concerned, Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade which is helping to coordinate protests said:

DSEI will bring many of the world’s most appalling regimes together with the biggest arms companies.  Right now UK fighter jets and bombs are playing a central role in the destruction of Yemen; what will be the next atrocity they are used in?  War, repression and injustice are fuelled by events like DSEI.  It’s time to shut it down for good

DSEI was formerly part of the UK Trade and Industry Department but has now been moved to the newly formed Department for International Trade the minister of which is Liam Fox.

In an interview on the BBC today (11 September) Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition, said “[the UK] sells too many arms to countries which abuse human rights.”

The guest list shows several firms with a Salisbury link who are exhibiting at this fair.  They include Babcock, Chemring’s, QinetiQ and Cubic.

The government has got itself into something of a fix over the question of arms sales.  Whilst claiming to have a strict code and robust procedures, the sale of arms to questionable regimes has increased.  Thousands of jobs now depend on this industry and with future problems likely to arise connected with our withdrawal from the EU, from an economic viewpoint we can ill afford to reduce sales of weapons.  It is thus on a treadmill requiring it to support the sale of weapons to a range of unsavoury regimes who in turn use these weapons to intimidate their own people or to cause suffering of neighbouring countries such as the bombing of Yemen by the Saudis.  It is also important to bear in mind that it is not just weapons that are involved but also security equipment.  Autocratic regimes are keen to keep tabs on their citizens and need all the techniques of surveillance to do so.  This kind of equipment, although not lethal of itself, does enable individuals to be monitored, watched and harassed.

The position is indefensible and some of the arguments echo those used by the slave trade in the nineteenth century where large numbers of jobs were involved in its continuation.


If you are keen to join us then come to the next event we are holding on 18 September and make yourself known.

 

 

 

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The new South Wilts University Technical College in Salisbury is to be part-funded by arms companies and a number of people are concerned that young people will be corrupted by such firms.  The Salisbury group has campaigned in the past on the issue of arms as Salisbury is surprisingly rich in arms companies.  It is likely that because we are near to Salisbury Plain – where a number of regiments are based – and the garrison towns of Bulford and Tidworth, it is attractive to such firms to set up here.  We are also near Porton Down and to Boscombe Down.

Some years ago, we discovered that a firm based in Salisbury was supplying the Indonesians with armoured land rovers being used in the oppression of the East Timorese.  Chemring, which has a factory at a place called High Post near Salisbury, was also the subject of press interest recently for allegedly supplying CS gas to the Hong Kong police to help suppress demonstrations, and to Israel.  Chemring supplied CS gas which was used in Egypt.

So the activities of arms companies are a matter of interest to us.  It has to be said straight away that, unless you are a complete pacifist, there are aspects of the arms trade which are perfectly legitimate.  We need to defend ourselves and therefore have a need to make armaments.  We can also sell such arms to countries we trust or to whom we are allied.  The difficulty is when arms are supplied to regimes who have little interest in human rights.  This is why Amnesty among others has been promoting an arms trade treaty.  Another problem is the shadowy world of dealers and brokers who go on to supply anyone willing to pay.

Anyone interested in the arms trade, then a book to read is The Shadow World: inside the global arms trade by Andrew Feinstein (Hamish Hamilton, 2011).  This remorselessly describes the trade and the high degree of corruption involved in its activities.  The industry is over £1tn in size and money flows via tax havens and brokers around the world.

Look at almost any news broadcast and it doesn’t matter who is fighting whom, what is noticeable is that they all seem to be remarkably well armed.  The various belligerents drive around in military vehicles, and they seem to be guns and rocket launchers aplenty.  These arms don’t appear out of nowhere, they are supplied by the shadowy world of the arms dealer and are financed via various tax havens, many of which are Crown dependencies.

Feinstein expresses it well in his introduction:

In our twenty-first-century world the lethal combination of technological advances, terrorism, global crime, state sponsored violence and socio-economic inequality has raised instability and insecurity to alarming levels.  At the same time, the engine that has driven this escalation, the global arms trade, grows ever more sophisticated, complex and toxic in its effects.

It might therefore be thought essential that the world’s democratic nations should address this trade effectively and urgently.  If it must exist, then surely it should be coherently regulated, legitimately financed, effectively policed and transparent in its workings, and meet people’s need for safety and security?

Instead the trade in weapons is a parallel world of money, corruption, deceit and death.  It operates to its own rules, largely unscrutinized, bringing enormous benefits to the chosen few, and suffering and immiseration to millions.  The trade corrodes our democracies, weakens already fragile states and often undermines the very national security it porports to strengthen.  (p xxii, ibid)

Arms sales are promoted by the British government by the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO).  There has been a lot of publicity recently as various ministers – including the Prime Minister – visiting the Gulf states to sign arms deals.  Some of these countries arrest or harass oppositions, use torture regularly, execute people in public, mistreat their women and have corrupt judicial systems.  No matter it seems, there’s trade to be had.  The Campaign Against the Arms Trade CAAT held a meeting in Salisbury recently to publicise the financing of this college by four arms firms.  The firms involved include Chemring, QinetiQ, Esterline and Dstl.  Serco is also involved which has a dubious record.

Some of the questions to ask of this college are: will their young people be free to discuss the activities of this trade?  If it transpires that munitions supplied by one of these firms are used to suppress demonstrations or are used to kill unarmed people for example, will students be free to debate this?  Will the effects and practices of the arms trade be a topic of discussion in Citizenship activities?  Interesting questions …  CAAT allege that the firms will use the college as a means to promote their image.  It will be interesting to see how this UTC deals with the ethical and moral issues of the arms trade and adopts an appropriately impartial position when and if allegations of wrongdoing emerge.

The college is part of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust and none of its trustees has any local links.

Article in Salisbury JournalCAAT item discussing the college is here.

UPDATE

CAAT Newsletter item (p6)