Six countries listed by the Foreign Office as “priority countries for human rights” have been invited by the British government to send delegations to Europe’s largest arms fair, which begins Tuesday in the Docklands of London.
Among the guests is Saudi Arabia, to which the UK has authorized the export of £ 20 billion of weapons that could be used in the war in Yemen, a bloody seven-year conflict which the UN, has caused the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world.
Other countries officially invited by the Department of International Trade (DIT) to the biannual Defense and Security Equipment International (DSEI) in London Excel that are considered a human rights concern were Bahrain , Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt, and Iraq.
Delegates from those countries will be able to mingle with more than 800 exhibitors, including 90% of the world’s 10 largest arms manufacturers, at a four-day international event unfolding despite the global Covid pandemic.
Samuel Perlo-Freeman, research coordinator at the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), said the presence of the six countries shows the UK is “not serious about arms export controls, world peace, human rights or good governance ”.
The six are on a list of 30 people first compiled by the Foreign Office in 2019. Last November Deputy Foreign Minister Lord Ahmad said they were covering countries “where we are particularly located. concerned about human rights issues and where we believe the UK can make a real difference ”.
One of the issues raised by the UK in all six cases was internal repression, including suppression of protests in Egypt and Iraq.
DSEI has a security zone which, according to its website, is “a showcase of security equipment, technologies, strategies and systems to counter priority threats, such as cyber attacks as well as border security, infrastructures, crowds and crises ”.
The invitations were confirmed in a parliamentary response to DIT Green MP Caroline Lucas sent on Friday. A total of 61 countries have been invited to send delegations, ranging from the United States to Vietnam.
DSEI is one of the largest trade shows held at the convention center and is being held with the support of the UK government and the help of a heavy police operation, which cost £ 2.4million in the last edition of the event in 2019.
Ministers approved a Red Arrows flypast on Tuesday lunchtime at the opening of DSEI, reflecting the event is intended, officials said, to “introduce Britain to the world”. A frigate, HMS Argyll, will also dock in the adjacent harbor, with a series of helicopters expected to arrive there.
Organizers say the event is around 70% of the size originally planned – in part because Covid travel restrictions prevent people from Red List countries like Turkey from participating. But the number of named exhibitors, at around 830, is about half of the 1,700 installed two years ago.
Protesters have spent the past week trying to disrupt the setting up of the event, and Metropolitan Police say several arrests have been made.
They will meet again Tuesday at the western entrance of the site for a day of speeches as part of a “Tank the Arms Fair” event, including a joint address by CND President Kate Hudson and creator of Vivienne Westwood fashion.
Meanwhile, around the same time, Jeremy Quin, the UK defense procurement minister, is expected to make an announcement about the future use of lasers by the UK armed forces – and stress the importance of the close ties between the army and its industrial suppliers.
Sarah Wiseman, head of export policy at the Department of Defense, told a launch event that the goal of events such as DSEI is to create “more strategic relationships with industry” and a underlined the role of the sector in job creation. “Over 200,000 people were directly or indirectly employed by the defense industry” across the UK, she added.
A UK government spokesperson said: “We always carry out strict checks before inviting foreign governments to export summits, including DSEI 2021.”