Campaign Against Arms Trade: Wikis

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Campaign Against Arms Trade
CAAT Logo.jpg
Founded 1974
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Focus Opposition to arms trading
Website www.caat.org.uk

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) is a UK-based NGO and campaigning organisation working towards the abolition of the international arms trade. Founded in 1974 by a broad coalition of peace groups, CAAT is united in opposition to the military industrial complex and the growth of the private military industry. It argues that these organisations reinforce global militarism whilst undermining attempts by civil society and the United Nations to resolve disputes peacefully. CAAT's main focus is to end the influence of arms companies over the UK government, and works together with similar organisations in other countries to the same end. CAAT has grown in stature in recent years as a result of several high profile campaigns, particularly its legal challenge against the Serious Fraud Office's decision to suspend a corruption investigation into BAE Systems in 2007.

Contents

Current Issues

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BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia Corruption Inquiry

BAE Systems formerly British Aerospace, is the world's third largest weapons trader. In September 1985 BAE was a signatory to the UK's largest ever arms deal, the Al Yamamah contract to provide military planes as well as servicing provisions to the government of Saudi Arabia. This ongoing contact has evolved through several phases to the present day and has thus made the company £43 billion pounds.[1]

Shortly after the contract was signed however, corruption allegations began to surface concerning bribes paid to Saudi officials through a £60 million pound slush fund.[2] On 12 September 2003 the Serious Fraud Office began an investigation into possible corruption. BAE are also the subject of four active SFO investigations for its dealings in Romania, the Czech Republic, South Africa and Tanzania, calling into question the general operating conduct of its agents.[3] However on the 14th December 2006 the Government discontinued the Al Yamamah probe on the grounds that its conclusions may embarrass the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and threaten Britain's national security.[4]

CAAT in conjunction with the Corner House, an anti-corruption NGO, mounted a legal challenge to this decision, to assess if in curtailing the Serious Fraud Office's investigation the Government had acted illegally. Thus on 9 November 2007 the High Court in London granted a request for a judicial review of the decision. Subsequently, on the 10 April the conclusion of this review stated that the Government had indeed acted illegally in stopping the corruption investigation. Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Sullivan ruled that the Government had capitulated under intimidation from the government of Saudi Arabia and that "no-one whether within this country or outside, is entitled to interfere with the course of justice." [5] BAE Systems continue to deny any impropriety stating the court had failed "to distinguish between a commission and a bribe." [6]

Subsequently the SFO launched an appeal that was heard before the Appellate committee of the House of Lords on 7 and 8 July 2008.[7] On the 30th July the House of Lords overturned the High Courts' ruling, and decreed that the SFO had acted lawfully in the interest of national security.[8] Senior Peer Lord Bingham of Cornwall stated that "the director's decision was one he was lawfully entitled to make" but the ruling incited a chorus of condemnation from Nick Clegg in the House of Commons. The leader of the Liberal Democrats characterised the verdict as "a legal licence for international blackmail." [9] The ruling also provoked considerable ire among anti-corruption campaigners and a string of NGO's .[10] CAAT spokesman Symon Hill commented "BAE and the government will be quickly disappointed if they think that this ruling will bring an end to public criticism. Throughout this case we have been overwhelmed with support from people in all walks of life. There has been a sharp rise in opposition to BAE's influence in the corridors of power. Fewer people are now taken in by exaggerated claims about British jobs dependent on the arms trade. The government has been judged in the court of public opinion.” [11]

In response to the judicial review the Government has drafted a controversial clause of the Constitutional Reform Bill. This will grant the attorney-general the power to quash any further such investigations with immunity from judicial interference. CAAT and the Corner House have both condemned any such legislation as a perversion of justice which will erode the accountability of the executive and threaten the rule of law.[12]

Closure of DESO

The Defence Export Services Organisation was an adjunct of the Ministry of Defence concerned with procuring contracts for private military companies to export arms to foreign governments.[13] The closure of DESO had been a core campaigning aim of CAAT since its inception in 1974, and was their main focus in 2006.

CAAT brought considerable pressure on the government concerning the ethics of some such trading, given that in 2004, UK arms export licenses were granted to 13 of the 20 'major countries of concern' identified by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in its 2005 Human Rights Annual Report.[14] CAAT also alleged that DESO unfairly privileged the interests of the arms companies and helped facilitate bribes to foreign officials.[15] In response to this on 25 July 2007 Gordon Brown announced that DESO would indeed be shut down.[16]

Chief Executive of BAE Systems Mike Turner condemned the decision by citing the damage it would do to Britain's export trade.[17] CAAT argued that the closure of DESO is a step forward in transparency for the government. As a result it will be less hamstrung by lobbyists seeking to manipulate its human rights and budgetary policies.[18]

In future export promotion will be the responsibility of UK Trade and Investment, the body that supports all UK exports. On 1 April 2008 the UKTI Defence and Security Organisation, which will be responsible for some of DESO's previous functions, was formed. The current head of UKTI DSO is Richard Paniguian CBE, a former BP executive. CAAT has pledged to monitor UKTI to make sure that military exports, (less than 2% of total UK exports in 2004), do not monopolise a disproportionate amount of its resources.[19]

DSEi: Reed Elsevier Campaign

Defence Systems and Equipment International is one of the largest arms fairs in the world which takes place in London bi-annually, the last occurring in September 2007. From 2003 to May 2008 the DSEi was organised by Reed Elsevier, a publishing and information company, who acquired the previous organisers Spearhead in 2003.

As CAAT is opposed to the existence of arms fairs,[20] it campaigned to encourage Reed Elsevier to extricate itself from the arms industry. There followed a sustained and concerted effort from academics, doctors and writers that use the company's products, who demanded they end their involvement with arms fairs on ethical grounds.[21] This culminated in Reed's decision to sell its arms fairs to Clarion Events in June2007,[22] a sale which was completed in May 2008 [23]

However, CAAT intends to continue campaigning for the overall closure of DSEi and other arms fairs.

Clean Investment Campaign

From universities to local authorities CAAT has consistently sought to highlight areas where public bodies hold shares in companies trading in arms. On 9 July CAAT released research that 75 local authorities in the UK held such investments through their pension funds.[24] It has argued that many council employees reject the notion that they should help to prop up such companies and continues to advocate a more ethical investment strategy.[25]

The long standing Clean Investment campaign has had many successes in the past, one of the most significant occurring in 2001. In response to pressure from the CAAT Christian Network the Church of England redefined its investment criteria and confirmed it will no longer invest in arms companies.[26] Despite excluding arms company holdings, the Church remained, in 2005, the second best performer of more than 1,000 funds over the previous decade.[27]

Furthermore, from 2005 the CAAT Universities Network has met with considerable success in its campaign to advocate ethical investment across the UK. A report entitled 'Study War No More' has highlighted military funding and involvement within 26 British universities.[28] CAAT facilitates research into the details of university investment portfolios which has helped students to mount their own campaigns for clean investment.[29] This has resulted in many universities divesting their shares in the arms industry, whilst many more campuses continue to campaign for similar action to be taken.[30]

Private military companies

Since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the use of 'private military companies' has become standard practice for countries such as the UK and the US. CAAT considers these contractors to be modern-day mercenaries. The Geneva Convention may classify as a mercenary a civilian contractor who is "motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party".[31]

Private military companies have become big business, with an estimated turnover world wide of $100 billion, and their use is set to rise.[32]

The UK Government's Green Paper of 2002 on Private Military Companies prompted a debate on the privatisation of a whole range of military services which has been taking place with little comment, high profile cases such as Sandline in Sierra Leone notwithstanding.[33]

CAAT seeks an end to all mercenary activities. If this cannot be achieved at this point, the following controls are its minimum immediate requirements:

  • a ban on all combat activities
  • all dealings between Government departments and agencies and the military companies, other than operational details, to be in the public domain
  • any contract entered into between a military company and a foreign government to stipulate a cash fee and no other benefit. No other business sharing directors or offices with the providers of security should be allowed to have any dealings with the foreign government concerned for a period of, say, five years. The ownership of the military companies should be made transparent.
  • companies to be made responsible under UK law for any breaches of human rights or the laws of war that may be committed by their employees

CAAT is also committed to publishing research on the issue in order to raise public awareness of the ever increasing role mercenaries play in modern conflict zones.[34]

Structure and Funding Network

CAAT has no formal membership structure. Individuals and affiliated groups (local branches of peace organisations, trade unions, churches, etc.), donate whatever they can afford towards the cost of running the campaign and receiving CAAT News , a bi-monthly magazine. There are also sponsoring groups who either took part in founding CAAT or have taken a major supporting role since. However 80% of CAAT's funding comes from individual donations.

CAAT is made up of grass-roots groups who come together to campaign for a variety of causes and issues surrounding its overall aims. In addition to local groups, CAAT also has a Christian Network, which looks at arms trade issues involving churches and mobilises Christians against the arms trade, (although CAAT as a whole includes members from many diverse faiths and those of no faiths). CAAT also has a Universities Network which involves students and university staff in campus-based campaigning. Potentially, other new networks can be formed at any time.

See also

External links

References

  1. ^ O'Connell, Dominic. "BAE cashes in on £40bn Arab jet deal", The Sunday Times, News International, 2006-08-20
  2. ^ BBC News story: "BBC lifts the lid on secret BAE slush fund" by Michael Robinson, 5 October, 2004.
  3. ^ Financial Times article: "Ever-lengthening list of corruption investigations" by Michael Peel, 11 April 2008
  4. ^ "Blair defends Saudi probe ruling" on BBC News site, 15 December 2006.
  5. ^ Official report of the Moses Judgement issued 10 April 2008(pdf file).
  6. ^ "Extravagance uncovered during Saudi arms probe" article by Christopher Hope and James Kirkup in The Daily Telegraph, 14/04/2008
  7. ^ BBC NEWS | Business | SFO defends ending Saudi probe
  8. ^ Lords back SFO over decision to end inquiry into BAE - Business News, Business - The Independent
  9. ^ Law lords: fraud office right to end bribery investigation in BAE case | World news | The Guardian
  10. ^ Lords rule SFO was lawful in halting BAE arms corruption inquiry | World news | guardian.co.uk
  11. ^ CAAT Press Releases
  12. ^ "Serious Fraud Office to appeal" CAAT Media Release 22 April 2008.
  13. ^ UKTI Defence & Security Organisation website (Successor to DESO)
  14. ^ House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign and Commonwealth affairs Report on the Human Rights Annual Report 2005 HC 574. Full Text aa .pdf file
  15. ^ http://www.caat.org.uk/publications/government/DESO-0106-low.pdf
  16. ^ Export department closure leaves defence firms out in the cold | Business | guardian.co.uk
  17. ^ BAE backlash against axing of export agency - Telegraph
  18. ^ CAAT Issues - Defence Export Services Organisation
  19. ^ CAAT Publications - An Introduction to the Arms Trade
  20. ^ http://caat.org.uk/campaigns/armsfairs.php
  21. ^ Doctors attack Lancet owner's arms fair links | Media | The Guardian
  22. ^ Reed Elsevier pulls out of organising arms fairs | Media | guardian.co.uk
  23. ^ Reed Sells ITEC, DSEi Trade Shows ~ International Trade Shows| Business Trade Fairs| Events| Exhibitions - Tradenfairs.com
  24. ^ CAAT Press Releases
  25. ^ CAAT Campaigns - Clean Investment local authority shareholdings 2007
  26. ^ http://www.caat.org/ukcaatnews/Issues/2001_01/clean-investment.php
  27. ^ Financial Times, 30 March 2005
  28. ^ http://www.studywarnomore.org.uk
  29. ^ CAAT Press Releases
  30. ^ CAAT Campaigns - Clean Investment: Universities
  31. ^ Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol 1) Article 47
  32. ^ Mother Jones article: "Soldiers of Good Fortune" by Barry Yeoman, May/June 2003 Issue
  33. ^ Comments on the Green Paper on Private Military Companies, CAAT website.
  34. ^ CAAT Publications - The Privatisation of Violence

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