Fighting for nuclear disarmament

| 1st July 2003
Ploughshares actions started in 1980 in the US. They have taken place in many different countries, with weapons as diverse as rifles, warships, missiles, submarines and aircraft being dismantled or damaged.

In Britain a successful ‘Seeds of Hope’ Ploughshares action was carried out by four women who did £1.5m worth of damage to a British Aerospace Hawk jet. The plane was prevented from being exported to Indonesia, where it might have been used in the genocide being committed in East Timor. The women were acquitted in July 1996 after they argued that their act was justified in law as they were preventing British complicity in genocide.

In February 1999 Rosie James and Rachel Wenham boarded HMS Vengeance at Barrow in Furness on the Cumbrian coast and disarmed testing equipment – an action believed to have delayed the Trident submarine’s entry into service by as much as a month. They were discharged after their third trial in September 2002, when the jury could not reach a verdict. In October 1999 three activists, Angie Zelter, Ulla Roder and Ellen Moxley, were acquitted on all charges after disarming a Trident-related facility at Scotland’s Faslane nuclear submarine base in June that year. The sheriff said the women were justified in what they had done on the basis of Trident’s illegality under international law. Justification of Trident Ploughshares 2000 was publicly launched in Hiroshima, Gothenburg, Ghent, Edinburgh and London on May 2 1998. It aims to train and enable hundreds of people from around the world to dismantle the British Trident nuclear weapon system. The justification and mandate for the disarmament actions are:

• the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice of July 8 1996 that confirmed the general illegality of nuclear weapons and concluded that states are under an obligation to bring to a conclusion negotiations on nuclear disarmament in all its aspects;

• the strong mandate the British population has given in recent polls showing majority backing for nuclear disarmament;

• the British Labour Party’s own election promises to achieve global nuclear disarmament;

• the failure of the British government to implement Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which promised nuclear disarmament by the nuclear powers; and

• the long-term opposition to nuclear weapons of the vast majority of the world’s peoples and states, who have called for global nuclear disarmament ever since the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.

To find out more about the movement or to support its work, contact: Trident Ploughshares, 42-46 Bethel St, Norwich NR2 1NR, 0845 45 88 366 or 0845 45 88 364.

This article first appeared in the Ecologist July 2003

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