A picture taken at a Palestine solidarity protest earlier this yearVarsity

Content Note: This article contains mentions of human rights abuses and military attacks against Palestine.

A coalition of groups and student societies are coming together to ask that the University end their ‘complicity’ in aiding war crimes - launching a series of demands to ‘demilitarise’ the University.

The SU Ethical Affairs Campaign, Cambridge University Amnesty International (CUAI), the Cambridge University Palestine Solidarity Society (PalSoc), Cambridge Stop the War Coalition and Cambridge Defend Education will launch their demands on Monday (01/11) coupled with a demonstration on King’s Parade. Speeches will take place, and information will be distributed regarding the “university’s complicity in human rights violations across the world”, according to the event’s Facebook page.

The coalition are making four key demands, including that the University “stop accepting donations and research grants” from arms companies, and that they “end all research and investment” by the University in association with arms companies and other military actors implicated in human rights abuses. They will also urge the University to establish a programme to find alternative modes of funding for researchers, and end “formal consultancy and training of arms companies implicated in human rights abuses”.

“We’ll be sending a clear message to the university administration: we will not tolerate being complicit in war crimes and illegal occupations across the world.”


Mountain View

Senate House protesters gather in solidarity with Palestine

The demands aim to put pressure on the University to remove their links to “some of the worst-offending arms companies in the world whose profits are stained with blood.” BAE Systems and Rolls Royce are two companies they name.

The Ethical Affairs Campaign told Varsity that the University “has a long history of complicity in human rights abuses in the global south through propping up colonialism. The University cannot claim anti-racist principles or talk of “decolonisation” whilst aiding companies that allow horrific violence to continue to be enacted upon populations in the global South”.

They continued: “Weapons manufacturers and war-criminals have no place on campuses. The university has sold itself to the arms industry; its students are being used to produce killing machines which are used on vulnerable and oppressed peoples across the world. ”

“The university is propping-up and legitimising the global war machine", they added, “when it should be promoting fields of study which tackle the emergencies of our time: climate breakdown, inequality and other social issues.”

This is not the first time the University has faced criticism for their association with arms companies.

In May this year, following rising tensions between Palestine and Israel, an open letter was launched by PalSoc denouncing the University for being “complicit [in the] oppression” of Palestine through the Cambridge Service Alliance’s partnership with BAE Systems and Caterpillar Inc., who they deemed to be aiding “Israel’s violations of international law.”

Cambridge student groups have also accused BAE Systems of “enabling major violations of international law” by the states of Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The company sells military equipment, including shells and F-16 fighter jets.

Set up in 2010, the Cambridge Service Alliance is described on the University’s website as “a unique global alliance between leading businesses and universities.”

Cambridge University Amnesty International told Varsity that BAE Systems have been “integral in the Yemen conflict by supplying, servicing and arming a fleet of combat aircraft such as the Boeing F-15 and Eurofighter Typhoon jets to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, used most notably in air raids in Yemen.”

They continued: “The Institute for Manufacturing in Cambridge offered consultancy and training to companies including BAE Systems as recently as 2019. Investment is not the true issue here, though funding to the University is significant. What is crucial is that we cannot let the University provide consultation and weapons development research to companies that directly contribute to human rights abuses.”

The coalition added: “As a community we are coming together to say: not in our name. With enough of us on the streets, and putting pressure on the university, we can, and we will, demilitarise Cambridge.”

Varsity has contacted the Cambridge University Palestine Solidarity Society (PalSoc), Cambridge Stop the War Coalition, Cambridge Defend Education and the University for comment.