Thursday, March 22News For London

Is UK’s arm trade backing Saudi’s war against Yemen?

Over the course of seven days in early September this year, over 100 activists were arrested for protesting and taking action against the DSEI arms fair. A court hearing at Stratford Magistrates Court on 7 December found Sam Hewlett, one of the protesters, guilty for passing racially motivated comments on a white police officer during the campaign.

Credit: Zahida Rizvi


Credit: Zahida Rizvi

Hewlett was a protester partaking in Stop the Arms Fair protest against the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair. The protest was an initiative taken by Campaign against Arms Trade (CAAT) – a UK based NGO.

The NGO has accused DSEI of being involved in licensing over £3.3 billion worth of arms, exported from Whitehall. The claim calls on the government to suspend all current licenses and stop issuing further export licenses, since the activity is backing Saudi Arabia wage a war against Yemen. The campaigners feel these arms have been supporting the Saudi regime, irrespective of the mass destruction caused.

The accusation, however, has been made for many years now, and protests have been held. But regardless of that, DSEI has not shown any change of action.

The legality of these arms sales is currently the subject of a judicial review, following an application by Campaign Against Arms Trade. The verdict is still pending on this, and also on whether these exports are compatible with the UK and EU legislation. The weapons have supposedly underpinned an intimate political and military relationship between the UK and Saudi Arabia.

Video Credits: Jasmine Zhao, Spencer Zhang

Out of more than 100 protesters who were arrested in September this year, 48 are currently facing trails, 10 are pleading guilty and 20 have had the charges against them dropped.

Credit: Jasmine Zhao

During the week-long protests, Hewlett had passed a racist comment on a police officer and got arrested. Last week, the court declared him guilty and subjected him to a conditional discharge for 9 months. Staying out of any trouble for this period will enable the case to suspend, the court made clear.

Video Credits: Jasmine Zhao, Spencer Zhang

The goal of stopping the supply of arms trade has been motivated by a humanitarian catastrophe. The ceasefire in Yemen, carried out by Saudi Arabia, has caused mass destruction in its infrastructure – leaving 80 per cent of the population in need of aid.

The UK hasn’t called for International Criminal Court (ICC) investigations on Saudi Arabia bombing Yemen. Instead, it has provided arms for the regime leading the bombardment.

The Campaign believes that the government is showing double standards as it is participating in arms control talks in Geneva, while also hosting the arms fair in London.

Video Credits: Jasmine Zhao, Spencer Zhang

CAAT gathered in London in March 2015 and featured a film on Arms Trade on Trial. The film was compiled by a determined group of activists who took legal action against two companies that were caught selling illegal torture equipment at DSEI.

The case was dropped by the crown prosecution service, but the activists have kept up their campaign and are working with CAAT and others to shut down the arms fair and end the arms trade for good.


Edited and Written: Megha Sharma

Sub-edited: Zahida Rizvi

Filming: Jasmine Zhao

Video editing: Spencer Zhang

Featured Image: Zahida Rizvi