AN INSPECTION at HMS WARRIOR (JSU NORTHWOOD)
Spokesman for Trident Ploughshares, Mr. Joss Garman
The governing international laws
- The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) came into force in 1970 and in Article VI explains an “obligation to pursue in good faith nuclear disarmament.” The government of the United Kingdom signed up to this treaty in 1968.
- The International Court of Justice, at The Hague, on 8th July 1996 ruled, “nuclear weapons are generally contrary to international law.”
This conclusion was made because nuclear weapons were considered to be in breach of the following:
The Declaration of St. Petersburg 1868
The Martens Clause 1899
The Hague Conventions 1907
The UN Charter 1945
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948
The Geneva Conventions 1949
The Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions 1977
Rule of proportionality
Rule of Necessity
Rule of moderation
Rule of Discrimination
Rule of Civilian Immunity
Nuclear weapons are also in breach of two principles engrained in the “fabric of humanitarian law”
“The first is aimed at the protection of the civilian population and civilian objects and establishes the distinction between combatants and non-combatants. States must never use weapons that are incapable of distinguishing between civilian and military targets.”
The second: “It is accordingly prohibited to use weapons causing them (combatants) such harm or uselessly aggravating their suffering. In application of that second principle, states do not have unlimited freedom of choice of means in the weapons that they use.”
The International Court of Justice stated:
“In the view of the current state of International law, and of the elements of the fact at its disposal, the court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons could be lawful or unlawful in extreme circumstances of self defence, in which the very survival of a state would be at stake.”
However, it is possible to conclude definitively the threat or use of British nuclear weapons (Trident) could never be lawful, even in extreme circumstances of self defence in which the very survival of the state would be at risk, because Trident consists of 100 kiloton warheads that would always fail the test of proportionality, necessity, controllability, discrimination and civilian immunity. Most important of all Trident breaks the intransgressible, cardinal rule of international law – it cannot differentiate between combatants and non-combatants.
Unlike South Africa, and more recently Libya, which decided on its own to eliminate its nuclear weapons programs and welcomed inspection as a means of creating confidence in its disarmament, the UK appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance – not even today – of the disarmament, which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace.
The UK government’s Strategic Defence Review specifies plans for upgrading Trident in the medium term and of keeping options open for replacement in the long term. Revelations and a report by Alan Simpson MP present evidence of the new refurbishment programme at Aldermaston, and of a linkage with the ‘Son of Trident; programme to update nuclear warheads. Simpson’s reports that there is “strong evidence that Britain is currently involved with the development of a new prototype designs to replace the Trident nuclear warhead”
This signals that not only is the UK government in breach of its obligation under article VI of the NPT, but it is actively undermining the agreement by developing plans for the production of further nuclear weapons. The weapons inspection detailed below, which was carried out by activists affiliated to Trident Ploughshares, was conducted in part to look for evidence of plans for the production of further nuclear weapons in breach of the NPT and customary international law.
There is in fact further evidence still that the UK is not acting in good faith towards nuclear disarmament in accordance with article VI of the NPT. For example, in 1998, the UK voted against a resolution “Towards a nuclear weapon free world; The Need for a new agenda” The UK ambassador to the UN at the time said that the resolution contained measures that were inconsistent with “the maintenance of a credible minimum deterrent.”
The UK government continues to fund research into new nuclear weapons systems, deploy armed nuclear missiles and state that it relies upon a nuclear deterrence. In March 2002, the Rt. Hon. Geoff Hoon, MP – the Defence secretary – told the House of Commons Defence Select Committee (20th March) that Iraq "can be absolutely confident that in the right conditions we would be willing to use our nuclear weapons." He reiterated this threat when speaking on ITV Television the following week (24th) with David Dimbleby when he 'insisted that the government "reserved the right" to use nuclear weapons if Britain or British troops were threatened by chemical or biological weapons'. These threats constitute a breach of customary international law, because, as the International Court of Justice stated, the threat or use of nuclear weapons is generally contrary to international law.
This weapons inspection was carried out by citizens, namely Joss Garman, Graham Thompson, Briony Tomlins, Sarah Shoraka and Philip Gordon. We acted because we believed that the UK was in breach of its obligations and we thought we had a duty to uphold international law, and to look for evidence so that we could pass it to you – the “real” and well respected international weapons inspectors, in the hope that you would move to get the British government to honour its obligations under article VI of the NPT, which the ICJ explained, is “an obligation to achieve a precise result, nuclear disarmament in all its aspects, by adopting a particular course of conduct, namely the pursuit of negotiations on the matter in good faith.”
We believe that after the completion of such disarmament, inspection teams would move to long term ongoing monitoring and verification to ensure that the UK did not re-deploy an illegal nuclear weapons programme.
Cooperation on process
As international citizens, the Nuremburg trials stated, “Individuals have individual duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual state.” The concept of international duties was accepted into English law in 1963 when the Lord Chancellor stated, in Parliament, that the UK look upon the Nuremburg Principles as generally accepted among states and have the status of customary international law. It was the belief of Trident Ploughshares, and the individuals involved in this inspection at Northwood, that we upheld our right as international citizens to uphold international law, which clearly states nuclear weapons to be illegal and therefore we were not breaking the law by carrying out such an inspection at Northwood, but that we were in fact upholding a duty, as laid out in the Nuremburg principles.
Indeed, we acted in the knowledge that, as Lord Lloyd of Berwick, in the Pinochet case, stated, “The common law incorporates the rules of customary International law….customary international law will be recognised and given full effect by English Courts without the need for any specific act adopting those rules into English law.”
As Hans Blix explained, “While inspection is not built on the premise of confidence but may lead to confidence if it is successful, there must nevertheless be a measure of mutual confidence from the very beginning in running the operation of inspection.”
Unlike in Iraq, where Blix stated, “Iraq has on the whole cooperated rather well so far with UNMOVIC in this field. The most important point to make is that access has been provided to all sites,” the UK denied our inspection team access.
Trident Ploughshares have carried out inspections at nuclear weapons sites including at HM Naval base Clyde, RNAD Coulport and AWE Aldermaston. At no time, despite written applications for government approval, have Trident Ploughshares been allowed to carry out inspections. In fact, many people have been arrested whilst carrying out weapons inspections and this inspection at HMS Warrior (Joint Services Unit, Northwood Military HQ) in NW London.
We were met by a security guard who, we now understand alerted the marines on guard inside the base, who then came to us, shouting and waving assault rifles. We were searched on all fours in a degrading manner, and marched with our hands on our heads through the base to a room where we were held until civilian police from Hertfordshire Constabulary arrived. We were then searched a second time, before we were transported to Watford Police Station. There we were held for almost fifteen hours before we were released on police bail with conditions not to go within 200m of Northwood. This provides an example of the level of secrecy surrounding Britain’s nuclear weapons programme. Whilst held at the police station we were questioned about what we were doing. By that time we had already presented them with statements regarding the illegality of Trident and our legal right to act.
Cooperation on substance
The substantive cooperation required relates above all to the obligation of the UK to declare all programmes of weapons of mass destruction and more importantly to present items and activities for elimination or else to provide evidence supporting the conclusion that nothing proscribed remains.
No evidence suggests the UK is disarming or that it has any plans for disarmament. In fact, as outlined above, the UK may be planning the construction of more nuclear weapons in the form of so-called “battlefield nukes” and “mini-nukes.”
Despite the fact that access has been denied at Northwood and other nuclear sites, Trident Ploughshares Weapons Inspectors will continue to try and carry out inspections in the hope that evidence then passed to the UN and its agencies who will then enforce international law and lead to the disarmament of Trident, and the prevention of nuclear proliferation. Trident Ploughshares campaigners will also try and actually carry out disarmament themselves too, as we did at Loch Goil with the disarmament of Maytime in 1999.