UK Arms Trade and the UAE
From 12th to 15th of September 2017, Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI), one of the world’s largest arms fair, is taking place in London. The UK government supports this arms fair financially, logistically, and politically, especially through its arms sales unit called Defence Security Organisation (DSO). Weapons sold at arms fairs like DSEI are used in war and conflict areas, supporting human rights abusing regimes, such as that of the UAE. 63% of the arms exported by the UK go to the Middle East, with the United Arab Emirates being the second largest importer of weapons. By maintaining their trading relationship with the UAE, the UK government risks complicity with an authoritarian regime who is responsible for numerous and systematic human rights violations such as arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and the restriction of freedom of speech.
Not only has the UK government established its own governmental unit to help the arms and security industries sell their products around the world, but it also spends enormous amounts of time on meetings with the arms industry. 70 arms and security companies have regular meetings with the UK government, involving 28 different departments and thereby giving the arms industry a huge political influence.
Although the UK abides by arms embargos imposed by UN and EU laws on countries such as Libya, Iraq, and Syria, many importers of UK arms do not, making the UK an indirect supplier of weapons to these conflict areas. In the last three years, the UK licensed £350m arms to be exported to the United Arab Emirates, although the UAE is a known violator of UN arms embargos.
The UK and the UAE have strong trade relationships. In 2015, the UAE was the UK’s 4th largest export market outside of Europe and bilateral trade was £12.4bn. Like many other buildings in London, the ExCel Centre, where the DSEI arms fair is hosted, is owned by the UAE.
Write directly to your MP and encourage them to stop selling arms to the UAE as well as to stop subsidising arms companies. You can find out who your MP is and their contact details here: https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/
A letter template is available below
- Join us on Saturday 9th September as we join other organisations to #StopDSEI and shut down the arms fair!
- Tweet using the hashtag #StopDSEI to raise awareness about the arms fair
Template letter to MPs
I’m writing to you in regards to the compromising military and trade relationship between the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, especially in regards to the arms industry. By maintaining this trading relationship, the UK government risks complicity with an authoritarian regime who is responsible for numerous and systematic human rights violations such as arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and the restriction of freedom of speech.
The UK exports 63% of its arms to the Middle East, supporting countries that clearly violate international human rights laws. Amongst the Middle Eastern countries, the UAE is the second largest importer of weapons; in the last 3 years, the UK has licensed £350m arms to be exported to the UAE alone.
The UAE is not a free country as freedom of speech is not guaranteed and anyone acting on their right to it risks imprisonment. In 2016 alone, around 300 people were detained for the expression of their dissenting opinions on social media, and human rights defenders such as Ahmed Mansoor are routinely arrested without warrant and held incommunicado. In spite of this systematic and illegal repression, in 2015 the UAE-UK Business Council announced the ambitious target to double bilateral trade to up to £25bn, ignoring these shocking human rights violations made by the UAE government.
Trade relations with the UAE should come under especially close scrutiny in light of the ongoing arms trade. In addition to providing conflict zone in the Middle East with weapons, the UAE has also been involved in military operations in Bahrain, Libya, Syria and Yemen. By providing Libyan forces with helicopters, gunships and fighter jets, the UAE have breached a United Nations arms embargo. In Yemen alone, where the UAE have a naval, ground, and air military presence, the humanitarian consequences of war have been 3 million displaced people and at least 10,000 killed, as of January 17. The UAE are also running clandestine prisons in Yemen where abuse is routine and torture extreme.
Companies working in the UK that have sold weapons to the UAE since the Yemeni war include: Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems. In total, over 70 arms and security companies have regular meetings with the UK government, involving 28 different departments and thereby giving the arms industry a huge political influence. Profiting from war and oppression, these arms companies put company profit over human rights, and by its intricate involvement with them, the UK government is directly complicit. As your constituent, I would like to encourage you to speak out loud and clear about this issue and raise it in Parliament as a matter of urgency, in order to:
- Stop exporting arms to the UAE because of its role in fuelling armed conflicts in the Middle East alongside its questionable human rights record.
- Stop subsidising arms companies.
- Create more transparency on the relationship of the government and the arms industry.
I look forward to hearing from you,