On November 6th, Brighton Against the Arms Trade (BAAT) is hosting a protest at EDO MBM, a Brighton based Arms factory.


By Joe Stephens.

On November 6th, Brighton Against the Arms Trade (BAAT) is hosting a protest at EDO MBM. 

The group announced on a Facebook event that they oppose the “integral” role it plays in the “Security-Military-Industrial complex fuelling violence, human rights abuses, climate change, and forced migration.”

BAAT is calling on EDO MBM’s exportation license to be revoked.

Founded in 1946, EDO MBM Technology ltd. is an arms factory situated on Home Park Business Farm and is owned by American technology and defence contractor Harris Corporation. EDO MBM designs, develops and manufactures weapon carriage and release technology, including the Paveway IV laser guidance systems, “helps (the bomb) find its target once released.”

The protest has been prompted by a 2018 United Nations Security Council report showed that Paveway IV systems were used in Saudi Arabia-led coalition bombings on civilian water infrastructure in Yemen. The Alsonidar factory complex was “completely destroyed” from two separate bombings in September 2016, with both bombings utilising the Paveway IV laser systems. Under International Humanitarian Law (IHL), the targeting of civilian infrastructure is prohibited, with the panel concluding they were “unconvinced” that the Saudi-led coalition complied with the distinction between civilian and military targets documented in IHL.

Resultantly, there has been cross-party lamentation of the arms factory. Green MP for Brighton Pavilion Caroline Lucas has stated the report rang “very loud alarm bells.” Whilst Brighton city council leader Nancy Platts, alongside 32 Green, Labour and Conservative councillors and Labour Kemptown MP Lloyd Russel-Moyle, signed a letter directed to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace MP stating:

“As you will know, the targeting of civilian infrastructure that has no dual use for military purpose is a war crime. We are therefore extremely concerned that the government has issued a licence for a weapon that has been used illegally. We therefore call on you to suspend all extant licences (OIELs) which EDO MBM and other companies used in this case and fully investigate this matter. If the information is found to be correct, we request that you revoke licenses used by EDO MBM and its partners to sell weapons parts and arms.”

There has been a long history of protests at the EDO MBM factory, with campaigns to stop EDO MBM dating back 15 years. In 2009 activists broke into the facility and caused £180,000 worth of damage to the arms factory. They wanted to impede perceived war crimes against the Palestinians, believing that the factory was breaking exportation regulations by manufacturing and selling equipment to the Israeli government which would supposedly then be used in the occupied territories. The five activists were acquitted after arguing they were attempting to hamper supposed war crimes.

A BAAT statement regarding the protest provided to The Badger states: 

“It is clear from actors such as Human Rights Watch and the UN that Saudi Arabia is violating international humanitarian law and may be guilty of war crimes. It is also clear that our city is allowing a factory to continue selling arms to fuel more civilian casualties of the war in Yemen (…) the only remedy is to see an end to EDO MBM from profiteering off of death and to end all arms export licenses to Saudi Arabia.”

EDO MBM is only a part of the controversy surrounding UK arms exports. Last month in Parliament, Labour MP Keith Vas questioned Liz Truss as to whether death certificates for civilians killed by weapons illegally licensed by her department would read “Death caused by administrative error?” This follows the international trade secretary apologising over the UK breaching a court order to not sell arms to Saudi Arabia 3 times. 

Moreover, in 2016, days after a Saudi-led airstrike of a potato factory killed 14 people, the now Prime Minister Boris Johnson recommended the UK allow Saudi Arabia to buy bomb parts for use in Yemen. A day after this, a village school in Yemen was hit with a lethal airstrike. This prompted complaints that the UK was complicit in the breaching of international law. 

The Independent reported in 2018 that UK defence companies and communities are worth £22 billion a year to the economy, as the UK competes with Russia to become the world’s second largest arms exporter. According to a list published in 2013 by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the biggest UK weapons company (and 4th largest worldwide) is BAE Systems.

In 2014 BAE sold 72 combat aircrafts to Saudi Arabia in a deal worth £4.4 billion. Saudi Arabia utilised some of these as part of a larger force to bomb Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospitals. Since then, UN has declared the Saudi-led bombing campaign to be violating international law. The UN and Oxfam have labelled the intervention in Yemen to be a massive ‘humanitarian crisis’.

Sir Roger Carr, the chairman of BAE, responded to criticisms regarding selling arms to Saudi Arabia in 2016 by stating “weapon sales encourage peace” and “We will stop doing it when they tell us to stop doing it.”

The Badger has approached EDO MBM for comment. 

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