The High Court today lifted a ban on protests taking place within a 250 metre “forbidden zone” around an arms factory in Shenstone. The ban came in the form of a temporary junction granted by the court on 30 June to UAV Engines Ltd in order to prevent protests outside the factory. Campaigners challenged the injunction in court today, claiming that it was designed to prevent people from exercising their right to free speech and protest at a factory manufacturing weapons used in human rights abuses abroad.
The factory – UAV Engines Ltd – is a subsidiary of Elbit Systems, one of Israel’s largest arms companies and a producer of drones and other military technology used in Israeli military assaults on Gaza.
A court order remains in place forbidding protesters from trespassing on UAV Engines property or from harassing the company.
Responding to the court’s decision, Chris Cole of Drone Campaign Network, one of the organisations challenging the injunction, said: “We’re very pleased that the High Court has decided that the injunction sought by UAV Engines went too far and curtailed the right of legitimate and peaceful protest outside its premises. Arms companies like UAV Engines must accept that many people have serious and legitimate objection to their activities.”
Ryvka Barnard of War on Want added: “We’re pleased that the court has done the right thing and lifted this unjust ban. We will continue to assert our right to protest at factories producing weapons used in human rights abuses and war crimes.”
PRESS RELEASE – Tues 21 July
Campaigners in the UK go to the High Court on Wednesday (22 July) in a bid to overturn an injunction forbidding protest at an arms factory in Shenstone, Staffordshire.
UAV Engines Ltd is a subsidiary of Elbit Systems – one of Israel’s largest arms companies and a producer of drones and other military technology used in Israeli military assaults on Gaza. Drone engines produced at the Shenstone factory are exported to Israel.
Protests and vigils have been held at the site since 2009. The injunction – granted in a hearing on 30 June – forbids any protestor from coming within 250 metres UAV Engines Ltd. The hearing will be the first opportunity for the court to hear from the campaigners, who did not know about the injunction when it was granted.
The injunction was granted days before a large national protest which took place outside the factory on 6 July. Hundreds of Palestine solidarity campaigners and anti-drone protesters took part in the event calling for an end to arms sales to Israel.
Nineteen people were arrested as the police sought to uphold the injunction. None of those arrested have been charged with any offence and all remain on police bail.
Ryvka Barnard of War on Want said
“gagging protesters’ right to demonstrate is anti-democratic. It’s especially worrying to see an injunction used to silence public dissent over the production of weapons used for grave human rights violations abroad.”
Chris Cole of Drone Campaign Network added
“There are serious legal and moral issues associated with the development and growing use of drone technology. It is simply wrong that the court has imposed such a draconian order banning protests at one of the main drone manufacturing locations in the UK”.
Maya Evans of London Palestine Action and one of those specifically named in the injunction said
“Today I am in Birmingham to challenge a draconian injunction which is silencing non-violent protest, if this injunction continues to stand it will shut down the potential for people to voice their freedom of speech, which will certainly fuel extreme feelings and actions.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
The court hearing will take place at 10.30 am on Weds 22 July at Birmingham High Court 33 Bull Street Birmingham B4 6DS