Friday, 21 December 2007

Pensioner Jailed for Opposing Trident Nuclear Weapons

A friend of mine IRENE WILLIS , a 62-year-old peace activist from Southend, Essex was last week sentenced to seven days' imprisonment by City of Westminster Magistrates ’ Court for refusing to pay a fine of £50 (+ £50 court costs). The fine was for deliberately obstructing traffic around Parliament Square during an anti-nuclear protest on 14th March 2007 , the day Parliament voted to replace Trident, despite a huge Labour backbench rebellion.

Anti-nuclear campaigners argue that by agreeing to replace its Trident nuclear missile-carrying submarines, and constructing new facilities to enable the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons at Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire, the Government is in breach of a number of laws and international treaties [1]. One of these is the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, ratified by Britain in 1968, which commits the then recognised nuclear states, including Britain , to act in good faith to decommission their existing stockpiles of nuclear weapons and not seek to develop new ones.

At the same time, Britain continues to condemn Iran for its uranium enrichment programme, despite there being no evidence of an intended military use. Britain also joined the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 under the pretext that Saddam Hussein was thought to possess weapons of mass destruction, none of which have ever been found.

Ms Willis, who is also an environmental campaigner, is unrepentant: “although I have been found guilty of a ‘crime’, I must ask why, if we are all equal under the law, the British government is not also put on trial for breaking international law.

“Regardless of today's outcome, I will continue to challenge the state, which is committing itself to spending up to 100 billion pounds of taxpayers’ money renewing a nuclear weapons system which ministers say they intend never to use. Two-thirds of this sum would be enough to reduce our carbon emissions by the 90% needed to avert climate catastrophe.

“I would ask anyone who feels we should not have nuclear weapons to take a moment to write to their MP and suggest that they vote against any new nuclear missiles or warheads. The majority of the population does not support nuclear weapons, and the Scottish Parliament strongly opposes them, so let’s aim to remove this threat in 2008.”

Irene is currently in custody and will serve her sentence immediately, probably at HMP Holloway in London.


Notes for editors:

1. Laws and international treaties contravened by continued possession of, or threat to use, nuclear weapons:

Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) - came into force in 1970
Hague Convention 1899, 1907
Geneva Protocol 1925
UN Charter 1945
Geneva Convention 1949
Nuremberg London Charter 1945/6
Genocide Act 1969
Additional Protocol 1977
Manuals of Military Law

Getting countries to sign up to reduce emissions is just the first step, they do actually have to make reductions. The Tories in the 80/90s built more gas power stations that were more efficient which did make a difference. And Tory councils often have better recycling rates.

To suggest that we shouldn’t even bother even to sign up at Bali is just giving up, is this the attitude that has seen us see off dictators since William 900 years ago? Were responsible for a significant amount of emissions, we have a duty to the world to act on this. Instead were falling behind, the rest of Europe has higher recycling rates and more renewable energy. We need to convert the rhetoric into action.

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