While Christian peace campaigners mark the beginning of Lent with an Ash Wednesday prayer vigil outside the MoD, a short distance away, anti-arms trade groups will be calling on the Prime Minister to end government support for arms sales and for the DSEi arms fair, scheduled to be held in London in September 2011.
The action reflects widespread public revulsion at UK arms sales to despotic regimes in the Middle East and North Africa who have used UK weaponry against peaceful protesters. A recent YouGov poll for the Sunday Times showed that 76% of the British public thought it was wrong to sell arms to Libya.
The petition is part of Campaign Against Arms Trade's campaign 'This is NOT OK' that highlights the government's promotion of arms sales to repressive regimes and countries in conflict.
The petition reads:
The government claims it has a 'responsible' attitude to arms sales. Yet it spends public money on persuading some of the world's worst human rights abusers and most unstable regions to buy weapons - and says it wants to do even more to promote arms
sales! This is NOT OK.
In September 2011, the government will help organise a massive arms fair, DSEi, in London. Thousands of arms dealers from across the globe will gather to deal in death. Clarion Events, the private company that owns the arms fair, defends its role by arguing that it is part of the legal arms trade. This is NOT OK
The petition includes hundreds of personal messages to the Prime Minister, demanding an end to the government promotion of arms exports and no further sales to repressive regimes and areas in conflict.
It will be presented by a delegation of CAAT staff and supporters, including Azeldin El-Sharif of the British-Libyan Solidarity Campaign.
Azeldin El-Sharif said: "Libyans in exile are watching and reporting as Gaddafi's regime tries to crush opponents using weapons sold by the UK and other EU countries. For many years we have been campaigning to stop the British government selling weapons systems to the Gaddafi dictatorship."
Sarah Waldron, CAAT campaign co-ordinator, said: "Sadly, arms sales to Gaddafi were not a one-off event but part of a targeted sales campaign by UKTI Defence & Security Organisation. The UK routinely supplies repressive regimes, even though it must know that these weapons are likely to be used for internal repression. Mr Cameron's visit to the Middle East, accompanied by arms company bosses, show that his focus is on increasing, not restraining, arms sales. This is Not responsible and This is Not OK."
For further information see: www.caat.org.uk.
See also ICN 7 March 2011 Prayer vigil planned outside MoD www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=17795