Anti-arms trade campaigners in Nottingham handed out hundreds of leaflets to people attending a health conference next door to arms company Heckler & Koch on Wednesday 26th September. The conference, called Good Health in Hard Times, took place at the Trent Vineyard church, which occupies Units 1 & 2 at Easter Park – an industrial park on Lenton Lane. The arms company, which makes submachine guns and assault rifles, operates from the unmarked warehouse at Unit 3.
A group of performance artists and activists has come up with a bold plan to rid the world of the scourge of Heckler & Koch weapons – to seal the factory inside a concrete sarcophagus. Just as a the damaged nuclear reactor at Chernobyl was encased in concrete to protect the world from radioactive emissions, so the Zentrum für Politische Schönheit (Centre for Political Beauty) intends to seal off Heckler & Koch’s main factory in Germany in order to prevent its harmful products from escaping and causing further loss of life.
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Police in Germany have once again raided the headquarters of arms company Heckler & Koch, this time amid allegations that the company has been bribing Mexican officials to get lucrative arms deals. Around 300 officers raided company premises on November 10th, as well as the homes of several H&K executives.
According to the Stuttgart prosecutor, H&K bribed Mexican officials from 2005 to 2010, and possibly bribed German officials too. The company was also raided last December by police investigating H&K’s illegal sale of weapons for Mexican states that are known to commit serious human rights violations.
The arms company has an international sales office in Nottingham, at Unit 3, Easter Park on the Lenton Lane industrial estate. Local campaigners believe that the company’s business is unethical and that it should be shut down.
When Libyan rebels stormed Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli in August, they seized a stockpile of brand new Heckler & Koch assault rifles, which they promptly turned against government forces. Now German prosecutors have launched an investigation into how these weapons came to be supplied to the Libyan dictatorship.
H&K, which now finds itself the under investigation for possible violation of Germany’s War Weapons Control Act, has admitted that the weapons came from a tranche of 608 rifles and 500,000 rounds of ammunition that the company supplied to Egypt’s autocratic regime in 2003.
The company has an international sales office in Lenton, Nottingham. Local residents are calling for it to be shut down, pointing to the company’s long track record of supplying arms to authoritarian regimes, including several of those that have brutally suppressed the popular uprisings of the ‘Arab Spring’.
A spokesperson for the Shut Down H&K campaign said “This company’s business is immoral, and its employees are complicit in the abuses of the repressive regimes that they help to arm. We should not tolerate such a company to operate in our city.”
With security forces in Bahrain attacking protesters and dragging doctors from their beds, it has emerged that Nottingham-based arms company Heckler & Koch has supplied 13 000 rounds of small arms ammunition to Bahrain. The ammo was for H&K rifles and submachine guns, which have been used by Bahraini police against the democracy movement in the last few weeks.
Although the sale took place before the current wave of unrest began, H&K cannot have been unaware of the repressive nature of the Bahraini regime. In 2009, the year the ammo was supplied, both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reported that Bahraini police were carrying out abductions, torture and beatings of political activists.
By arming repressive regimes such as this, H&K is complicit in the human rights abuses they commit. The company has an international sales office in Nottingham, which has been the target of numerous protests in the four years since it was discovered by local anti-arms-trade campaigners.
On Febuary 27th, as pro-Gaddafi militias and mercenaries were patrolling the streets of Tripoli, a video was posted to YouTube showing Saif al-Gaddafi, son of Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi, rallying supporters and promising to send them weapons to fight the protesters.
In the video, Saif Gaddafi can clearly be seen toting a Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifle. In a subsequent interview, Saif was asked by Channel 4 Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jonathan Miller about the “AK-47” he was brandishing in the video. Showing his pride for the weapon, Saif replied “That was not an AK; that was a Heckler.”
On March 17th, BBC TV’s prime-time magazine programme The One Show aired a report about Nottinghamshire’s hidden arms companies.
In the wake of revelations about the UK selling arms to repressive regimes such as Libya and Bahrain, the One Show decided to do a report looking at the UK’s arms trade. The report was based around the Map of Militarism produced by Notts Anti-Militarism. Kirk Jackson, from Campaign Against Arms Trade and Notts Anti-Militarism, took One Show reporter Simon Boazman to a few of the local arms companies, including small arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch, the target of a long-running local campaign.
Across the Middle East and North Africa, people have risen up to try to overthrow their undemocratic governments, and these uprisings have been met with state-sponsored violence and repression.
Now Notts Anti-Militarism can reveal that several of these repressive regimes have been armed by a company with an international sales office in Nottingham: Heckler & Koch.
In Libya, forces loyal to 42-year dictator Muammar Gaddafi have been slaughtering civilian protesters in the streets. According to Jane’s Infantry Weapons, Libya’s armed forces are still equipped with Heckler & Koch G3 rifles.
They bought these rifles from the Greek state manufacturer, which was in turn licensed by Heckler & Koch. The company has used this type of deal many times in order to profit from arms exports that would not be allowed in its home country.
The German government placed an arms embargo on four of Mexico’s 31 states, including Chiapas, home of the Zapatistas, due to serious human rights abuses there. However, between 2006 and 2009, H&K sold assault rifles to those states, shipping the weapons to Mexico City in order to disguise their final destination. Furthermore, Heckler & Koch bribed a Mexican general to get the deal.
Today the UK Government hosted a conference in Nottingham aimed at helping British arms companies boost their sales. Arms companies from across the country were invited to the swanky Nottingham Belfry hotel in Broxtowe for this one-day event, entitled “Selling to Defence & Security Markets“.
The event was organised by a controversial government department called UKTI DSO, which spends millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money every year promoting British arms exports, often to unstable and repressive regimes. The organisation won the 2010 Quango Awards prize for Most Ethically Dubious Quango, and Campaign Against Arms Trade is trying to get it closed down.