Campaign groups are teaming up tomorrow to protest against UK arms sales to the UAE in front of one of the largest arms expos in the world at the London ExCel Centre.
Activists and campaigners from the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE) will be joining a host of other campaigning organisations such as the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) at the Defence and Security Equipment International exhibition (DSEI) arms fair to protest against millions of dollars of arms trade with a regime, activists describe as being a notorious human rights violator.
The week of campaigning, which began with a protest against Israeli arms sales, will see crowds of people calling on the UK government to end arms sales to the UAE. The trade deals with Britain are said to involve highly sophisticated and invasive cyber surveillance technology which the UAE government uses to spy on its own citizens, and weaponry used to commit war crimes in Yemen.
Campaign groups say that between 2012 and 2016 the UAE was listed as the world’s third largest importer of weaponary; during this period, the UK licensed around £350 million worth of arms for export to the UAE. At the same time the UAE has become increasingly dismissive towards international treaties, human rights laws and UN conventions.
The UAE’s war in Yemen, which has caused untold death and destruction, is a major focal point for protestors. The Gulf alliance has been charged with committing war crimes in Yemen, where they hold a significant naval, ground and air presence. It was also recently revealed that UAE forces have been running clandestine prisons where there have been numerous reports of extreme torture.
Campaigners also claim that 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.
The UK-registered BAE systems, who will be vying for new trade deals at the ExCel Centre is thought to have provided the cyber surveillance technology which was used in connection with the enforced disappearance of human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor.
Campaigners are calling on the British government to revise their close trading relationship with the UAE. They say that by providing arms and weaponry to this authoritarian regime, the UK is being complicit in war crimes and human rights violation. Furthermore they say that the trade deal between the two nations is set to increase as the UK leaves the EU and having set itself an ambitious target of doubling bilateral trade to up to £25 billion by 2020.