A Hertfordshire missile manufacturer, whose weapons have been used by Saudi Arabia in its Yemen military campaign, is among hundreds of companies marketing their products to delegates from human rights-abusing nations in London this week.
Stevenage-based MBDA systems is just one of a number of Hertfordshire companies among the 1,500 scheduled to exhibit their goods to potential buyers at the biannual Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) fair, which will be taking place at London’s ExCel Centre this week (Tuesday 12 to Friday 15 September).
Other local companies exhibiting at DSEI are Harlow-based Raytheon, whose bombs have also been sold to Saudi Arabia and dropped in Yemen, and Hertford’s ISTEC Services, which supplies “precision engineered small-arm weapon mounts and weapon ancillaries” and also counts Saudi Arabia among its customers.
Government and military delegates from 56 countries including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkey and Bahrain were invited to attend DSEI — which is co-hosted by the Defence and Security Organisation, the section of the Government’s Department for International Trade tasked with assisting weapons manufacturers with international exports.
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) described the guest list as a “roll call of despots, dictatorships and human rights abusers.”.
He added: “They will be greeted by civil servants and Government ministers who are there for one reason only: to promote weapons.
“It’s impossible to promote human rights and democracy while arming and supporting authoritarian regimes and tyrants.”
Six of the countries invited to DSEI, including Saudi Arabia, have been included on the UK Government’s own watch list of human rights abusers, while nine are considered to have authoritarian regimes.
MBDA — a subsidiary of BAE systems, the world’s third largest arms producer — supplies weapons to 90 armed forces around the world.
Its cruise missiles, Storm Shadow, and ground attack Brimstone missiles have both been confirmed to have been used by Saudi Arabia in the ongoing conflict in Yemen that has left three million people malnourished — including half a million children described by Oxfam as being in a “life-threatening condition”.
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It has also left 20 million, 75 per cent of the population, in need of humanitarian aid.
According to a recent report by the United Nations (UN), more than 60 per cent of the more than 10,000 civilian deaths in the war-ravaged country have been the result of Saudi-led air strikes, which began in March 2015.
The UK has sold more than £3.6 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia — its biggest customer — since the devastating conflict began, according to campaign group Control Arms.
MBDA also previously signed a contract to supply £200 million worth of missiles and communications equipment to Colonel Gaddafi, the former Libyan leader.
Andrew Smith said: “MBDA has sold its weapons to brutal and oppressive regimes all around the world.
“Its missiles are being used in the terrible destruction of Yemen.
“Companies like MBDA fuel and profit from war and conflict around the world.”
In July, a High Court ruled that arms exports could continue to Saudi Arabia after a legal challenge led by CAAT, despite mounting humanitarian concerns.
The UK Government had previously been revealed to be considering suspending sales to Saudi Arabia following the 2016 bombing of a funeral in Yemen which killed 140 civilians.
MBDA has not responded to a request for comment.
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Source: Hertfordshire Live