After more than a year of putting eight anti-arms activists through stop-start legal shenanigans over whether they broke the law at a DSEI arms fair protest, judges at the High Court have reserved their decision, meaning another agonising wait.
The eight, who participated in a sit-down protest at the arms fair in September 2015, had initially been acquitted in April 2016 of charges that they had obstructed a road. They argued that their actions were justified as they were trying to prevent greater crimes from taking place, such as selling weapons which could be used for repression in Bahrain, Yemen, Palestine and Kurdistan.
The Crown Prosecution Service has subsequently attempted two appeals of the decision at great expense, but both were thrown out and the case had been presumed closed in November after the CPS failed to pursue it. But the case was reopened yet again in March and sent to the High Court last month seeking a judicial review.
In his 2016 ruling, District Judge Angus Hamilton had held that there had been “clear, credible and largely unchallenged evidence from the expert witnesses of wrongdoing at DSEI and compelling evidence that it took place in 2015.”
The High Court decision is being seen as potentially having major consequences for anti-war activism, as it could impact on legal defences related to “prevention of crime” where individuals act to prevent war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The defendants have argued that where the State fails to intervene or is complicit in the enabling of war crimes, citizens must be free to act without persecution.
DSEI is one of the world’s largest and most notorious arms fairs, held every two years at the ExCeL centre in London, and is due to run from September 12-15th this year. Jointly organised by Clarion Events and the UK government, it hosts buyers from a wide variety of governments known to be engaged in domestic torture and warfare.
Pic: Stop The Arms Fair