Letter From Barbara Gnehm

Thank heavens — and WDC — for my newsletter. I stay aware of many matters that I might otherwise miss, yet as I try to handle more free hours than I used to, I come across news throwaway items like “Spares and parts of Trident have been stolen over the past 4 years” (on Channel 4). How casually mentioned and yet the outcome could be horrific. Terrorists and paranoid politicians everywhere could really love this. The cost first mentioned was 5 million this was denied later when the Royal Navy admitted to 2 million lost in a black hole. It’s probably nearer 5 million lost and we know what people like us could do with this kind of money. Housing and hospitals spring to mind as winter problems grow for the sick and homeless.

Another report was of higher amounts of radiation than usual or expected being discovered surrounding power plants and other nuclear establishments. Aldermaston — surprise surprise — and places like it are “cause for concern”. It’s rather like laying an inch of sand per year and being surprised that year four yields 4 inches isn’t it? I know that WDC is mainly concerned with weapons but these type of reports are useful for stirring people into more concern over economical and environmental matters.

One thing did cheer me recently and that was re-allocation of 150 million pounds from MoD budget to NHS for funding the expected Winter crisis. Good I thought — sidetrack more please — but no — next was the announcement of funding Trident No. 4, with the weapon head numbers not being decided yet. Economically foolish and morally wrong. I keep telling people what could be done with the millions that are wasted or go missing.

Thanks to all concerned for not letting me miss important things and reminding me what one can do with letters to M.P.s and ‘phone calls to find out more about matters mentioned, at least I still feel useful.

Pax, Barbara

What are you doing on December 19th?

Please take part in CND’s concerted campaign to bombard the Prime Minister in Downing Street with ‘phone, fax and e-mail messages wishing him a peaceful (and nuclear-free) Christmas.

The Rt. Hon. Tony Blair M.P.
10 Downing Street, London SW1A 2AA
Tel: 0171–270–3000 Fax: 0171–930–1419


The Good News

At the recent vote taken in the First Committee at the UN on the revised version of the 1996 Malaysian UN General Assembly resolution, the UK abstained instead of voting ‘No’ on ‘operative paragraph 1’ which “underlines once again the unanimous conclusion of the ICJ that there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control”. This is the first time that the UK has parted company from the US in disarmament matters at the UN and must be considered a significant move.

Wimbledon’s Roundtable

After months of planning we have had our ‘Roundtable’ — now to be renamed the Merton Citizens’ Forum because both Wimbledon and Morden were represented and we want to avoid possible confusion with the other sort of Roundtable organisation.

The months of planning paid off, and the afternoon ran very smoothly under the professional chairmanship of Roger Crosskey. Our ‘jury’ of 14 included a university academic, a journalist, an editor, teachers and headteachers, a doctor, a sixth-form student, a young graduate House of Commons researcher and a single mum. The ages ranged over 60 years, there was a balance of men and women, and only two of the participants knew each other previously.

Milan Rai gave a brilliant introductory exposition and then two hours were spent in general debate in the relaxed atmosphere of Dr Josephine Lomax–Simpson’s beautiful garden room. All present agreed that the amount of common ground justified issuing a statement to be forwarded to both our local M.P.s, and this will be reproduced in full in the next Newsletter. The agreed introductory paragraph runs as follows: “We debated the issues raised by the ICJ Opinion of July 1996 in the context of UK nuclear defence policy and we have a number of concerns”.

Report on a conference on “Nuclear Law” organised by the UK group of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA)

Peter Weiss, an American who is president of the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy and co-president of IALANA, contrasted his own views of the findings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) with that of a lawyer supporting the American government view of the proceedings. The USA thinks that no opinion should have been given by the ICJ but the fact that an opinion was given should be regarded as a victory. In addition an opinion was given on human rights and environmental damage, not just for peace time but also for war. Under the heading ‘The Law of armed force’ he said there had been countless UN resolutions against the use of nuclear weapons. The ICJ had found that due to their massively destructive nature the use of nuclear weapons was generally a violation of the law. He suggested that the survival of the state was not an exception. Although the court findings lack a specific time frame this did not mean that there should not be a time frame since it says the nuclear powers should “pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiation leading to nuclear disarmament under strict effective international control”. He went on to say that the USA was ignoring this as it has revived the nuclear arms race and is resuming the production of tritium, that NATO expansion is likely to delay START II and that NATO does not see why it should change its nuclear policy.

Vera Baird, a barrister, spoke on Non-Violent Direct Action and the Law. She outlined the action of the four women who broke into British Aerospace and caused massive damage to a Hawk aircraft due to be exported to Indonesia, and then waited in the hangar to be arrested. The judge allowed a number of witnesses, including John Pilger, to tell of the damage these aircraft had caused to the Indonesian population. The defence pleaded that a crime was imminent and that nothing else could be done to prevent it. The Hawk aircraft were due to be exported on Jan 29th and the damage was caused on Jan 28th by women who had previously protested by demonstrations and letters to the government. The defence plea was accepted and the women acquitted.

Marc Weller, Deputy Director of the Centre of International Studies at Cambridge University presented his arguments in a completely different way, arguing that the litigation strategy adopted by the majority of the parties in the nuclear weapons proceedings could not ever achieve the desired result. However, the case does represent a number of important advances. He gave a large number of tables which set out the legal regulations, the pro-nuclear argument, the anti-nuclear argument and the approach of the court. On genocide there is a treaty reinforced by custom — the pro-nuclear argument says that the convention applies only to acts committed with the intent to destroy national, racial or religious groups and that no such intent can be imputed; the anti-nuclear argument says that intent can be inferred from the predictable consequences. The court said that an abstract ruling could not be made — intent must be demonstrated in a particular case. He dealt with arms control, humanitarian law and the environment and suggested that the burden of proof should be on the nuclear weapons states.

Prof. Mullerson (professor of International Law at King’s College) said that not all the judges were happy with the judgement. He spoke on the relationship between the Law of War and the Law of Peace and security, pointing out that self-defence could violate humanitarian law. He questioned the survival of the state, drawing attention to the fact that there had been great variation in the number of states in Europe from the 16th Century to the present day.

This just covers the morning session — we did not stay in the afternoon to hear views on Law concerning children in armed conflict, Nuclear Weapons and Self-Defence and several other topics.

Dorothy Toohill and Muriel Wood

Notes From CND Conference

On the whole this was an uncontroversial conference with the usual excellent workshops. The one resolution which was vigorously debated was the ‘Trident’ resolution. In its original form, this resolution expressed regret at the Labour decision to keep Trident, called for UK dependence on nuclear weapons to be dropped and urged the Government to bring forward disarmament proposals for public discussion. Kingston Peace Council / CND urged an amendment which would have substituted a campaign for the immediate scrapping of Trident for the ‘step by step’ approach of the original. This eventually went to the vote and was adjudged a dead heat. The chair ruled that this meant that the resolution stood in its existing form and was therefore passed intact.

The ‘Strategy’ debate on the second day caused some dissent, despite reassurance that the proposed ‘strategy statement’ was in no way a substitute for the existing CND constitution but was rather intended as a “nice clear statement” for non-CND people, more readily accessible and flexible than the formal constitution. The strategy statement was eventually adopted by a comfortable but not overwhelming majority.

Workshops attended by our delegates included:

Rachel Julian spoke about the Manchester ‘Roundtable’ which in many ways was a parallel experience to ours. Raising awareness of the possibility of Abolition and raising levels of popular support was their primary aim and any influence on the Government was secondary. Roundtables could contribute to changing the political climate and finding ways forward in the Abolition process from different perspectives.

Muriel, Dorothy and Helen were our delegates.

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