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British arms companies accused of ‘washing their hands’ over weapon sales

A DAMNING report has condemned British arms manufacturers for ignoring human rights abuses and war crimes committed by countries buying their weapons.

The Amnesty International report was released today as protests continued outside the London venue of one of the world’s biggest arms fairs ahead of its opening tomorrow.

And London Mayor Sadiq Khan joined calls for the fair to be kicked out of the capital, writing to organisers saying they were not welcome.

The report said that 22 companies, including British firms BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce, fail to undertake adequate human rights “due diligence” despite the risk of atrocities being committed by buyers.

The findings follow a court ruling that British arms sales to Saudi Arabia are unlawful.

Saudi Arabia is one of 50 countries invited by the government to attend the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair at the ExCeL exhibition centre in London’s Docklands.

Amnesty contacted 22 arms companies from 11 countries asking them to explain how they meet their responsibilities to respect human rights under internationally recognised standards.

The human rights group’s arms control researcher Patrick Wilcken said: “Not one of the companies we contacted was able to demonstrate adequate human rights due diligence. 

“Not only does this show an alarming indifference to the human cost of their business, it could potentially expose these companies and their bosses to prosecution for complicity in war crimes.

“Defence giants are washing their hands of their responsibilities by arguing that, once their goods are shipped, they no longer have any control over how they are used.”

Amnesty’s report says many of the companies investigated have made millions of pounds from supplying arms and services for the Saudi and United Arab Emirates-led military campaign in Yemen, where the coalition is accused of committing war crimes and serious human rights violations.

More than 100 protesters have been arrested so far during a series of rolling demonstrations outside DSEI since the actions started a week ago in a bid to stop weaponry from being delivered. 

Peace Pledge Union organiser Symon Hill was arrested on Saturday afternoon and kept in custody for about eight hours after police accused him of “breaching the peace.”

Mr Hill told the Star: “This shows the twisted way peace is understood by the ruling class.”

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