Kingston Peace Council/CND will be one of many organisations commemorating the sixty seventh anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (6th & 9th Aug respectively).
We shall meet as usual on Monday 6th August 2012 at 8.30pm on the river bank at Canbury Gardens, Kingston, near the bandstand. Please bring your own small “boats” - grapefruit skins are good - and night-lights to float on the river.
There are also various events in London – see Network for Peace for details.
Monday 27th August 2012
KPC will have a stall as usual at this event on Bank Holiday Monday.
The Fair takes place in Carshalton Park, Ruskin Road, Carshalton, on Bank Holiday Monday, 27th August 2012, from 10.30am – 8pm. For details of the Fair see www.envfair.org.uk
If you haven’t been to this before it is a lovely event with lots of interesting campaigning and charity stalls, delicious food and drink, everything powered by solar or pedal-power. Often the weather is pleasant too! It’s our last fund-raising event of the year, and also a wonderful opportunity to meet and talk with people interested in peace issues.
Please 'phone Maggie on 020 8549 0086 to offer to help on our stall for an hour or few.
In July 1955, as part of the tenth anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb, this memorial mound was constructed in the Memorial Park in Hiroshima, at the spot, close to the hypocentre, where numerous corpses were collected and cremated in 1945. The ashes of tens of thousands of victims, excavated around the city, were placed here in the underground cinerarium.
Each year, around 6th August, memorial services are conducted here.
Handa Shonin Memorial Walk 2012
From 23rd August to 1st September 2012 a small group of people from the Nipponzan Myohoji (Peace Pagoda) in Milton Keynes will be walking from Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), where nuclear weapons are developed, tested and maintained, to Hinkley Point in Somerset, the first of eight sites approved by the government for development of a new generation of nuclear power stations. £5 billion is being spent on the AWE, and recently an extra £350 million spend was announced to design a new generation of nuclear armed submarines, even though replacement of the existing Trident submarines has not yet been approved by Parliament.
The walk will be in memory of Handa Shonin and all he stood for. Rev. Handa was a Buddhist monk, the abbot of Milton Keynes Peace Pagoda and Temple from 1980 until his accidental death in August 2007, while carrying out maintenance work around the Pagoda. He had just weeks earlier joined an anti-nuclear walk and had led the annual lantern floating on the lake on Hiroshima Day. Handa Shonin was a follower of Fujii Guruji (1885-1985), a Japanese monk who, after the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, undertook the construction of peace pagodas as a way to raise a spiritual basis for people to unite and turn around the threat to all life.
Pilotless aircraft have been around much longer than they have been generally talked about. Evolving from remote controlled amateur playthings, technology advances and satellite communication have enabled ‘pilots’ in Nevada to fly lethal bombing sorties half a world away, and return to home and family after a hard day at the console.
For long the dream of military wonks, crazed scientists and adolescent ‘war games’ addicts, “bugsplats” are now zapped from the comfort of the armchair at no personal risk. Forget dangerous stuff like hand-to-hand combat, ‘boots on the ground’ and blood and guts. If spilt blood is the distasteful price of warfare, it’s the other sucker’s that’s to be spilt. Time was that in combat each side supposedly had a ‘sporting chance’. Rules of engagement were updated by the Geneva Convention but nothing regulates unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) - drones to you and me. First used for surveillance they were armed from 2001, and since the first extrajudicial killing in 2002 roughly 400 US covert drone strikes have killed over 3,000 people. Once the US lectured Israel about ill-advised targeted assassinations; but that was then. Now production lines work 24/7 churning out $2m Predators and Reapers, and more US drone ‘pilots’ are trained than conventional ones.
Touted as ‘the most precise weapon in the history of warfare’, drones are almost undetectable till the “bugsplats” are history. Inconveniently, chosen targets are often in amongst innocent civilians who account for the mounting toll of dead collaterals, about 10 to 1, to say nothing of the maimed and injured. They are ‘unconfirmed civilian casualties’ in military speak. Afghan civilian deaths are financially compensated but in secret drone warfare all rules are off the table. The US defines combatants in Waziristan as ‘all military-age males in a strike zone’; adding that the dead can be ‘reclassified posthumously as civilians if explicit evidence proves them innocent’. When challenged about civilian deaths the US retorts that because the tribal areas of Pakistan are ‘inaccessible’ it is ‘impossible’ to establish the facts, yet frequent claims are made about eliminating ‘high value targets’.
In 2005 only 5% of US defense department aircraft were unmanned. Today it’s 61% and the target is 66%. The booming demand for drone ‘pilots’ has caused a ‘UAV pilot crunch’ with reduced standards for recruits and training. The air force uses trained pilots who complain of boredom. The army reasons that their young recruits are armed and ‘licenced to kill’ anyway so those with video game skills can kill with drones too. Studies show 3 minutes training is often all that’s needed to fly surveillance drones.
Armed drones are equipped with all conceivable visual gadgetry to enable precise target identification from 2,000ft through cloud and at night. The aircraft can hover so the precise moment of attack can be decided unhurriedly. The ‘precision’ argument is however academic when discharging explosives capable of killing 80 to 100 in a crowd; and, as happened at a packed public funeral in 2009, leaving the ‘object’ unharmed.
Direct targeting of non-combatants is a war crime and legal moves are stirring to seek redress. The US argues that the rules of war apply since it is engaged in armed conflict with al-Qaeda and is entitled to use force for self-defence. Despite the military supposedly being bound by the Geneva Conventions accountability is a real problem. Obama has escalated drone missions and has granted the CIA carte blanch for ‘decapitation strikes’, subject to approval by Harold Koh, legal advisor to the state department – turned executioner. However, the law is an unreliable ally since Geneva Conventions didn't anticipate summary execution by drone. Indications are that victims do not constitute a clear and present danger, even assuming intelligence to be reliable. Use of the CIA is a clever wheeze since it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts or the Freedom of Information Act.
Critics query the idea of a secret ‘kill-list’ which could include sympathisers, wives, relatives or friends. ‘Mistakes’ occur, targets are missed, identification may be faulty, and the “bugsplats” may merely be suspected of supporting the Taliban or terrorism in some way – perhaps sheltering someone or giving food or money at knife point. The ‘kill-list’ is a state secret. No one may know who is on it or why, nor can the intelligence basis be challenged.
UAVs are very useful to monitor climate change and the environment for example; but drone strikes are the future too. They have already been reported in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, even the Philippines.
The shocking treatment of children in Israeli detention
Each year approximately 500 - 700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12 years, are detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system. The most common charge is for throwing stones. The overwhelming majority of these children are detained inside Israel in contravention of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
On 3rd July I attended a meeting of the Richmond and Kingston branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign at which Victoria Brittain, an author and former associate foreign editor of the Guardian, showed a video of the evidence from: ‘Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted: Children held in military detention’, a recently published report from Defence of the Child International (DCI) - the international children’s rights NGO.
The report is the culmination of four years’ work by DCI, with the support of the European Union, focusing on verifying reports of ill-treatment and torture of children in the Israeli military detention system in the period of time between the child’s arrest and his being brought before a military court for the first time. In addition to an analysis of the 311 testimonies collected from children detained in the system, the report includes 25 detailed case studies of children, interviews with a lawyer, a rehabilitation expert and a former Israeli soldier, and an expert medical report into the mental health implications for the children.
The video we watched showed harrowing extracts from many of these interviews. We saw children being manhandled and kicked in the street before being bundled into vans and removed. We heard children describing how they were mistreated in detention, including not being allowed to go to the toilet, being deprived of sleep, physically abused and interrogated incessantly until they made some sort of confession, just so that they could be freed. We also saw interviews with parents, describing how they were unable to get information about why their children had been detained, and how since their release they were having nightmares. Medical experts explained that, often years later, children were suffering from post-traumatic stress. The interview with the former Israeli soldier was particularly revealing. He described how he partook in these acts, but he now realised how wrong it was. He described how picking up a child in the street for a minor act such as stone throwing was considered “a prize” – there was competition among the soldiers for the number of such arrests they could make.
The testimonies reveal that most children are arrested from villages located close to illegal settlements and roads used by the Israeli army or settlers. 45 percent are detained between midnight and 4am in terrifying army raids. Most children have their hands painfully tied behind their backs and are blindfolded, before being taken away to an unknown location for interrogation. The arrest and transfer process is often accompanied by verbal abuse, humiliation and threats as well as physical violence. Unlike Israeli children living in settlements in the West Bank, Palestinian children are not accompanied by a parent and are generally interrogated without the benefit of legal advice, or being informed of their right to silence. The report also finds that in 29 percent of cases the children are either shown, or made to sign, documentation written in Hebrew, a language they do not understand. Within days of their arrest, nearly two-thirds of the children are transferred (by G4S) to prisons inside Israel. The practical consequences of this is that many children receive either limited or no family visits, due to freedom of movement restrictions and the time it takes to issue a permit to visit the prisons.
Within eight days of their arrest, the children are brought in chains to a military court where, in most cases, they will see a lawyer and their parents for the first time. Although many children maintain their innocence, in the end at least 90 percent will plead guilty, as this is the quickest way out of a system that denies children bail in 87 percent of cases.
The report also finds that there is a general absence of effective complaint mechanisms. The actions of the Israeli military, as in so many other situations in Palestine, are obviously intended to break communities.
It concludes by making 10 recommendations intended to provide a series of simple and practical protective measures. These recommendations include a call for an end to night time arrests, children to have access to a lawyer prior to questioning, all interrogations to be audio-visually recorded, and every child to be accompanied by a parent.
The key findings of the report are presented in the following table:
|#||Common complaints and areas of concern||Number of cases||Percentage|
|4||Detention inside Israel in violation of Article 76||196||63%|
|5||Arrested between midnight and 5:00 am||188||60%|
|6||Confession during interrogation||180||58%|
|8||Verbal abuse and/or humiliation||169||54%|
|10||Transferred on floor of vehicle||98||32%|
|11||Signed/shown documents written in Hebrew||91||29%|
In June DCI re-issued an urgent appeal against the forcible transfer of Palestinian children to prisons inside Israel, which is in violation of article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, for which personal criminal liability applies.
In response to this appeal, UK lawyers and two unions (NUT and UCU) wrote to the UK’s Foreign Secretary seeking urgent intervention in accordance with the UK’s obligations under the Convention.
On 26 June a delegation of nine UK lawyers, including Baroness Scotland (a former Attorney General) and Sir Stephen Sedley (a retired Court of Appeal judge), who had visited the region in September 2011, released their report on Palestinian child detainees, ‘Children in military custody’.
In a letter dated 29 June the UK Foreign Office responded to the lawyers’ concerns as follows:
“The British Government shares your concerns about the treatment of Palestinian children detained in Israeli prisons and we have a continual dialogue with the Israeli authorities on this question. […] The Government agrees that Israel has legal obligations as an Occupying Power with respect to the Occupied Palestinian Territories under applicable international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention. […] We agree with you that Israel’s policy of detaining Palestinians within Israel is contrary to Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and that domestic law cannot be used as a justification for violations of international law.” (So what will the Government do about it?)
Further details of the above reports are at www.dci-palestine.org and www.childreninmilitarycustody.org
Campaigning against the Arms Trade (Photos: D. Viesnik)
On Monday 9th July the Natural History Museum hosted a major reception for arms traders during the Farnborough International Airshow and Exhibition.
Arms dealers enjoyed cocktails in the shadow of the Museum's famous Diplodocus. In the words of the arms fair's organisers, the reception was “THE most important event during the Farnborough week, exclusively attended by key industry senior level figures, international delegations and exhibitors ... a must attend event and an unparalleled networking opportunity”. The 37 buyer countries invited by the UK government to the Exhibition included unstable or authoritarian regimes such as Algeria, Bahrain, Indonesia, Libya and Saudi Arabia. Rosoboronexport, the main weapons supplier to the Assad regime in Syria, was a major exhibitor.
Some KPC members joined a protest, organised by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), outside the museum, handing out leaflets to museum visitors inviting them to write to the Director, Michael Dixon. Many people were shocked that the museum was being used in this way. The protestors stayed on until the arms dealers arrived for their reception.
Two Ministers have taken the very unusual step of writing to every MP in the country in response to issues raised by CAAT. The Ministers' letter claims criticism of the government's arms sales is misleading and does not match 'the facts'. Even though the government was forced to cancel an unprecedented 158 arms export licences, it still insists there is nothing wrong.
However, a parliamentary committee on arms exports recently published a hard-hitting report scrutinising the UK's arms sales to repressive regimes. The report highlighted:
The report was published just before MPs left Parliament for the summer, so your MP may not have seen it. But he’s received the Government's letter reassuring him that everything is fine. Please make sure he gets both sides of the story: write and ask him to look at the Committee's report over his summer break.
For more information see: http://www.caat.org.uk/campaigns/this-is-not-ok/take-action-mp.php
In the June edition of Kingston Peace News, Jim McCluskey told us of growing concerns worldwide about the state of Reactor 4 at the Fukushima-Daiichi power plant in Japan, following the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Reactor 4 contained no fuel when the earthquake hit, but the spent fuel assemblies had been moved to a cooling pool on the second floor of the containment unit. The unit suffered enormous damage during the tsunami—a hydrogen explosion blew the roof off, leaving the highly radioactive fuel pool exposed to the open air. If another high level (7.0 magnitude) earthquake hits the area, the building will certainly collapse. Seismologists have predicted that such a strong earthquake is highly likely to occur within the next 3 years.
The Japanese government also thinks that the Unit 4 problem is critical, and are planning to move many of the rods from the pool in 2013.
On 22nd June World Nuclear News reported that a new cover has been installed over the used fuel pool of unit 4. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said that, in addition to preventing debris falling into the pool, the new cover would "ensure a higher level of safety."
The new platform will also provide further protection against the weather to the used fuel pool. The summer typhoon season has started in Japan.
World Nuclear News also reported that alarms sounded on 30th June, when a problem with the pool's alternative cooling system caused the system to shut down automatically. After confirming that there was no leakage from the pool, TEPCO investigations suggested that the problem lay in the system's uninterruptible power supply (UPS). After the problematic UPS was isolated, cooling was restarted in the afternoon of 1st July, having been out of action for nearly 33 hours.
On 5th July the Japanese Diet's Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, one of three bodies investigating the circumstances of the accident, produced a report which said:
“The earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 were natural disasters of a magnitude that shocked the entire world, but the subsequent accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant cannot be regarded as a natural disaster. It was a profoundly manmade disaster – that could and should have been foreseen and prevented. And its effects could have been mitigated by a more effective human response. Our report catalogues a multitude of errors and willful negligence that left the Fukushima plant unprepared for the events of March 11. And it examines serious deficiencies in the response to the accident by TEPCO, regulators and the government. What must be admitted – very painfully – is that this was a disaster “Made in Japan.”
The report made it clear that there were a number of things it did not do, including a study of matters related to the future energy policies of Japan, nor investigation of the treatment and disposition of used nuclear fuel rods.
For further information see http://www.world-nuclear-news.org
by Rob Green
A review of this book was in the July edition of KPN.
Rob Green is at present in the UK, and visiting Shrewsbury to try to get the police to reopen the case of the murder of Hilda Murrell. He is still being harassed wherever he goes.
The book can be purchased from the CND office, price £18, see www.cnduk.org/shop
Think in Kingston (TIK) is a festival of ideas, this year on the theme of “money”, which is being organised in Kingston throughout October. Various local groups will be taking part. KPC will be carrying out street action on three separate occasions, highlighting the cost of government spending cuts relative to arms and nuclear weapons. If you would like to take part, please contact Hilary on 020 8898 4850.
Please note that the KPC monthly meeting on 10th October will be held in the Druid’s Head pub in the Market Place, at 9pm, allowing people to attend the TIK meeting on that evening.
The official TIK programme will be sent out with our September newsletter. In the meantime, details of events can be seen at http://e-voice.org.uk/thinkinkingston/
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Gill Hurle
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND