Thanks to the most unlikely of partners, one of the world's largest arms fairs is getting a boost in advertising as it plans to open its doors in London this Tuesday.
The Defence and Security Equipment International exhibition is held every other year and features top weapons manufacturers from the United Kingdom and the United States. The event is sponsored by the U.K.'s federal government. During past editions, though, human rights group Amnesty International claims that it has found illegal items being offered to authoritarian governments at the conference.
"At some we found cluster bombs, at others it’s been leg irons, electric shock batons and stun guns – tools used to torture people," the international human rights group said.
On Monday, the group released a satirical ad campaign for the exhibition."Come along! It's a truly great day for all," a TV ad announces, with rosy colored illicit items splashing across the screen. Printed posters, leaflets and full page ads in local newspapers were also purchased.
"This shouldn’t be happening – there are laws in the EU that prohibit the trade in torture equipment," said Amnesty International. "Despite promises to clamp down on this practice, no company has ever been prosecuted for peddling torture equipment at U.K. arms fairs."
Official invitees to the event include authoritarian governments like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and Azerbaijan, all of which are widely considered human rights violators, reports the Guardian.
Several countries that regularly recruit and train child soldiers have also received official invites.
Recently, the U.K. government has come under intense scrutiny for supplying the Saudi government with arms while it wages a United Nations-approved war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. But while the war is approved, reports of widespread civilian casualties in that conflict have prompted the U.N.'s top humanitarian official in Yemen, Johannes van der Klaauw, to claim that war crimes are being committed there.
"Schools and hospitals, markets, enterprises and factories should not be stricken, should not be shelled. Even in warfare there are certain rules, and they are being violated in this conflict," he told the BBC.
An unexploded bomb that struck a mosque in that country was also found to be manufactured in the U.S., Amnesty International found in a separate report.
Over 1,500 arms companies will be offering their products for sale at the London show.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.