Sadiq Khan tells world's largest arms fair to 'leave London'

Sadiq Khan tells world's largest arms fair to 'leave London'
London’s mayor Sadiq Khan has called on organisers of the world's largest arms fair to leave the capital amid protests over the “abhorrent” event.
4 min read
08 September, 2019
The comments were made in a letter sent to the organisers [Getty]
London’s mayor has called on organisers of the world's largest arms fair to leave the capital amid protests over the “abhorrent” event.

Sadiq Khan said he backed protesters concerns, saying he too “strongly oppose this event taking place in London”.

The mayor’s comments were made in a letter to the director of the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI), according to The Independent.

"London is a global city, which is home to individuals who have fled conflict and suffered as a consequence of arms and weapons like those exhibited at DSEI.

"In order to represent Londoners' interests, I will take any opportunity available to prevent this event from taking place at the Royal Docks in future years."

He told organisers to "reconsider hosting the fair in London in future" and cover the costs to the Metropolitan Police.

The comments came as almost 100 people have so far been arrested during protests against the fair, which is expected to launch at the ExCeL centre on Tuesday.

British ministers and officials are expected to attend the event, which will see arms manufacturers market their wares to international delegations from Saudi Arabia and other nations, despite global concerns.

It is supported by the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Trade and is expected to host “platinum partner” British defence giant BAE Systems, American firm General Dynamics, and the United Arab Emirates, which will have its own pavilion at the event.

Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia are leading a coalition battling Houthi rebels in Yemen in a conflict that has killed more than 91,000 people, according to ACLED figures.

The UN has dubbed Yemen to be the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The coalition has received approvals for export licenses from the UK worth £6.2bn since the conflict began in 2015.

Last month, a UN panel of experts discovered the British laser guidance missile systems on a site near the capital Sanaa where four bombs were dropped in September 2016, The Guardian reported.

The guidance unit found by the UN were stamped with EDOMBM Technology Ltd - the name of a Brighton-based company owned by the US arms supplier L3 Harris.

Parts from the same company were also found by the UN in a strike that occurred at the Alsonidar complex around the same time.

The UN finding showed "that British technology has been deployed in a conflict where the Saudi-led coalition has been repeatedly accused of indiscriminate bombing," the Guardian reported.

The British government announced in June it would suspend issuing new Saudi licenses for the sale of arms that might be used in the Gulf kingdom's bombing campaign in Yemen.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox announced the decision in parliament after a British court ordered the government to "reconsider" sales due to their humanitarian impact.

The decision came after Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) went before the UK Court of Appeal in April to overturn a 2017 High Court judgment which allowed the government to continue with arms exports to Saudi Arabia.

But a month before the strikes in question occurred, then foreign secretary Borish Johnson declared he was "content to allow the export of weapons systems to Saudi Arabia in the expectation they would be used in Yemen," according to The Guardian.

Andrew Smith, of the Campaign Against Arms Trade group, praised the capital’s mayor for his response.

"It is very welcome to see such a prominent politician making a strong statement. DSEI is a moral disgrace and should be firmly opposed, whether it is taking place in London or anywhere else,” he told The Independent.

"It will bring a roll call of the world's most repressive regimes together with all of the biggest arms companies. They will be there for one reason: to sell as many weapons as possible, regardless of the consequences.”

In a separate letter send by Khan to the Royal Docks Management Authority, which runs the ExCeL, the British official said he was "opposed to London being used as a marketplace for the trade of weapons”.

Meanwhile, local authority, Newham Council, echoed the mayor’s sentiments, confirming it would be holding an "alternative peace exhibition" hosting campaigners and politicians on Tuesday.

Rokhsana Fiaz, the mayor of Newham, called the arms fair "abhorrent" after the council passed a motion "rejecting the economic arguments cynically deployed in defence of this trade".

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