The cancellation of another arms fair crowns a positivel year for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade
The Spanish city of Seville has announced the cancellation of the Electronic Warfare Europe arms fair which it was scheduled to host in May 2021. This is a victory for the citizen platform Stop Feria de Armas and other local groups that have campaigned against the event.
These include Adelante Sevilla – Forward Seville – an electoral grouping of the left, involving, among others, the Spanish left party Podemos. The group welcomed the decision, which it said would prevent Seville from becoming “an accomplice of the death industry.”
Stop Ferias de Armas, a coalition of over twenty organisations, also welcomed the announcement. It said: “We do not want to be complicit in the weapons used to repress oppressed peoples such as the Palestinians or the Yemenis. Spanish institutions must not allow arms fairs in their spaces,” adding “We hope the City Council will be consistent and also cancel the Aerospace and Defence Meetings Seville 2021, sponsored by Airbus, a company that profits from war crimes in Yemen.”
Seville’s mayor called for situations like this to be avoided in future, while Councillor Susana Serrano of Podemos recalled that earlier this year the city of Liverpool cancelled the same arms fair and approved an ethical code to regulate events that take place in public spaces.
Liverpool cancelled the fair in October, after a strong local coalition including Liverpool Against the Electronic Arms Fair, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament urged the city council not to host such an unethical event promoting human rights violations. The campaign included 40,000 emails from citizens and a video from Liverpool comedian Alexei Sayle.
According to CAAT, Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest private weapons manufacturer whose arms are regularly used by the Israeli military to kill and maim Palestinian civilians, was one of the fair’s global partners. Elbit sells its weaponry as “battle-tested” – it tests it on the Palestinian population living under Israel’s occupation.
The Italian transnational arms manufacturer Leonardo was another partner of the cancelled fair. Leonardo arms have been sold to the Saudi coalition which is responsible for targeting refugee camps, schools and hospitals in Yemen, which the UN has characterised as a war crime.
The Campaign Against the Arms trade has notched up some significant successes over the last twelve months. It launched a new legal challenge to prevent the sale of British weapons for use in the war in Yemen. This followed the government’s decision to resume issuing arms export licences for use there, which had been suspended after CAAT secured a legal victory in the Court of Appeal to stop this. The resumption of sales was an astonishing decision, given that UK rules explicitly prohibit this when there is a “clear risk they might be used in violations of international humanitarian law.”
In a joint investigation with the Independent newspaper, it revealed that the UK had licensed at least £34 million worth of tear gas sales to over 50 countries, including some of the world’s most abusive dictatorships. It further exposed how the UK College of Policing trained both the Nigerian and Hong Kong Police, who have brutally repressed peaceful protesters. It additionally revealed how the Scottish government gave grants – including those exclusively intended for civilian ends – to support military projects.