Politics

Ministers woo foreign cops accused of heavy-handed tactics at British arms fair

Senior ministers have attended a British arms fair for foreign police forces, many of whom face criticism for human rights abuses and heavy-handed policing.

Both Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Security Minister Ben Wallace spoke at the three-day Security and Policing fair in Farnborough.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid was scheduled to attend the Home Office-run event, but had to pull out of the event due to the escalating knife crime crisis.

British-made small arms, surveillance and border security equipment were on show for overseas governments.

Attendees included Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, all of whom have been criticised for their police forces’ heavy handed tactics.

In 2011, during the earliest days of the Arab Spring, it was reported that British-made tear gas was used to quell pro-democracy protesters in Egypt’s Tahrir Square.

And in 2016 it was reported that shotgun shells made by a British firm were used to kill a Shia dissident, Abdul-Rahim al-Faraj, during a Saudi police raid.

His family said he was unarmed and was “murdered” by security services, who made no attempt to arrest him.

The global non-lethal weapons market is predicted to be worth $8.3 billion by 2020.

Speaking at the fair, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox declared the UK security industry “one of the strongest and most innovative in the world”.

Andrew Smith of Campaign against the Arms Trade said: “Many of those in attendance have a history of torturing and executing journalists and activists.

“By arming and supporting them, the UK Government is making itself complicit in these abuses.

“Events like this only strengthen the UK’s links to dictatorships and entrench its role as a global arms dealer. They undermine the Government’s claims to be promoting human rights and strengthen the position of repressive regimes.”

In his speech, Dr Fox said: “This sector plays a vital role in the UK’s prosperity: totalling some £4.8 billion of our exports – and it continues to grow.”

A Government spokesperson said: “The Government is proud to support British industry and to do all it can to help keep British people and British interests safe both in the UK and overseas.”

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