Protest at the DSEI Arms Fair Calls for an End to UK-UAE Arms Trade
This weekend the ICFUAE participated in a protest at the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair at the ExCel Centre in London. Amongst other campaigning groups, such as the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), they called for an end to the UK's cooperation with repressive regimes with dubious human rights records, such as the UAE.
A ‘Week of Action’ has seen activists blocking the road leading to the ExCel centre in an attempt to stop weaponry from arriving and disrupt the setup of the event as much as possible. Other bids to reclaim the space have involved artistic performances such as open-air theatres and live music events.
Between 2012 and 2016 the UAE was listed as the world’s third largest importer; during this period, the UK licensed around £350m worth of arms for export to the UAE. At the same time the UAE has become increasingly dismissive towards international treaties, human rights law and UN conventions.
The UAE are charged with committing war crimes in Yemen, where they hold a significant naval, ground and air presence, and the UN has documented a humanitarian catastrophe as a result of the conflict there. Furthermore, it was recently revealed that UAE forces have been running clandestine prisons where there have been numerous reports of extreme torture.
Within their own borders, the Emirati authorities have committed numerous human rights violations against their own citizens and foreign nationals. Human rights organisations have documented numerous cases of torture, arbitrary detention, lack of freedom of speech and repression of political dissidents in the UAE. UK-registered BAE systems, who will be vying for new trade deals this week in the ExCel Centre, provided the cyber surveillance technology which was used in connection with the enforced disappearance of human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor.
The British government must revise their close trading relationship with the UAE in the light of the UAE’s appalling track record in relation to human rights. By providing arms and weaponry to this authoritarian regime, the UK is complicit in war crimes and human rights violation. As Britain moves towards Brexit relations between the two countries risk becoming even closer; the UK UAE Business Council recently set an ambitious target to double bilateral trade to up to £25bn by 2020. It is absolutely imperative that the UK stops sending arms to a dictatorship, and any future trade deals must be contingent on the UAE’s adherence to international human rights law.