Torture on your doorstep: Amnesty campaign calls for end to London’s annual arms fair

VCCP and Anthony Burrill have created a bold campaign for Amnesty International calling for an end to the annual Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) event at London’s ExCel centre.

The event runs until Friday and exhibits warships, tanks, rifles, armored vehicles and defence technology. Amnesty International says it “has been showcasing arms to all kinds of governments, including known human rights abusers” and claims to have discovered illegal equipment such as cluster bombs, leg irons, electric shock batons and stun guns being advertised there in previous years.


The charity is now calling for an end to the event and has enlisted the help of Anthony Burrill to create a clever ad campaign condemning it. Burrill’s bold and cheerful posters come with slogans such as “Illegal torture equipment – plus all your favourite food outlets!” His artwork has appeared in newspapers and on billboards and outdoor advertising spots around the city. Stickers, beer mats and t-shirts have also been produced.

VCCP describes the campaign as “THE-REALLY-BIG-AND-FAR-REACHING-AD-CAMPAIGN-THEY-NEVER-REALLY-WANTED-YOU-TO-SEE”.  A short animated film released online features a chirpy voiceover advising visitors they may find “horrific killer drones”, “ankle-shattering leg irons” and cluster bombs at the event, while graphics depict businessmen clutching suitcases of money and women caressing explosives.


Viewers are directed towards which leads to Amnesty’s website. A statement on the site reads: “Despite promises to clamp down on this practice, no company has ever been prosecuted for peddling torture equipment at UK arms fairs. …Tell the UK government that they must fight to strengthen these laws, close the loopholes and hold those who trade in torture equipment to account. Make us proud!”

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Meanwhile, in an unconnected campaign, artists involved in Banksy’s Dismaland (and designers including Barnbrook) have created posters criticising the event and the human rights abuses of participating countries. A group known as the Special Patrol Group has been installing the posters in bus stops around the city and replacing official TfL posters in Underground stations with fake ones requesting customers to help stop the fair:

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TfL has since issued a statement describing the posters and “fly-posting and an act of vandalism” and says it will be removing any found in stations.

Agency: VCCP
Creative director: Matt Lever
Associate creative directors: Chris Birch, Jonny Parker
Production company: Agile Films
Director: Zak Ella
Designer: Anthony Burrill

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