As reported in our September newsletter, the United Nations passed a treaty on 7 July forbidding the development, testing, production, possess-ion, transfer, use and threatened use of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices (122 nations voted in favour).
20 September was a significant day. At 08:00 EST Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, uttered those magic words, "I declare the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons open for signature".
Fifty states had already signed the Treaty by the end of this first day, and the Holy See (Vatican) was the first state to ratify it.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has worked long and hard in over 100 countries for this treaty to come into being.
You can read their statement on this historic moment at http://www.icanw.org/campaign-news/icans-remarks-at-the-signing-ceremony/
The UK government, along with the other nuclear weapons states, took no part in the treaty negotiations, and has stated its intention to never join the nuclear ban treaty (see page 2).
On 20 September CND handed in a letter to Downing Street together with letters members and supporters had signed to send to the Prime Minister about this issue.
If you haven't yet signed, follow this link, and please encourage all of your friends and families to sign too.
The treaty will come into force after 50 states have ratified it . It will not be binding on states which have not signed it, and three nuclear weapons states - the UK, US and France - have repeatedly made their opposition to the treaty known. They stated their intention never to join the nuclear ban treaty in a statement released shortly after negotiations on the treaty concluded . The three states did not attend the negotiations, in which 122 states voted in favour of the final treaty text  with The Netherlands opposed and Singapore abstaining. None of the nine states in possession of nuclear weapons participated in the negotiations.
Their statement also says that the three states will not accept any claim that the treaty could become customary international law. In practice, this is extremely unlikely to happen, not least because the “persistent objection” of states who would be affected can prevent a treaty from becoming customary international law . The wording of the statement is probably intended to embody this type of persistent objection.
As well as signaling their intention never to be bound by the nuclear ban treaty, the statement contains a number of criticisms of the treaty.
The complaints include that the treaty does not take the “international security environment” into account, that it creates divisions and that it has no solution to the issue of North Korea’s nuclear programme. The ban treaty is also criticised for being incompatible with nuclear deterrence, which the three states credit with keeping the peace in Europe and North Asia for over 70 years.
The three states reiterate their support of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and for the eventual goal of nuclear disarmament. However, they maintain that “general and complete disarmament must be done in a way that promotes international peace and security, and strategic stability”.
The UK Government has repeated the sentiment in the statement when answering parliamentary questions. In response to a question asking what the UK has done to further Article VI of the NPT, which commits states with nuclear weapons to pursue eventual disarmament, the government spoke of the “complex challenges” that needed to be overcome and called for nuclear disarmament to be pursued through a “consensus-based approach that takes into account the wider global security context”.
The Nuclear Information Service has produced a briefing paper  which looks at elements of the text of the treaty in the light of one specific nuclear weapons state: the United Kingdom. The UK is not planning to sign the treaty, but this briefing discusses the extent to which aspects of the UK’s practice as a nuclear weapons state are covered by the measures in the treaty. By examining the specific context of the UK they hope to contextualise the legal measures in the text and provide a deeper understanding of some of its provisions.
The Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI), one of the world's largest arms fairs, took place at the ExCel Centre in London's Docklands from 12-15 September. 1,500 exhibitors from around the world displayed arms ranging from sniper rifles to tanks to combat aircraft to warships. They were joined by trade visitors and military delegations, including those from human rights abusing regimes and countries involved in conflict. In the preceding week equipment was being delivered for the set-up of the exhibition, and Campaign Against Arms Trade organised daily blockades and creative protest. Members of Kingston Peace Council/CND attended the demonstrations on three of those days.
This year was the first time a specific nuclear-themed day had been scheduled, inspired by the large numbers of nuclear weapons companies exhibiting at the fair.
KPC members assembled at East Gate, where Yorkshire CND and Greater Manchester & Dis-trict CND had taken responsibility for co-ordinating the blockade.
When we arrived at 8.20am we found the road had just been blocked to all traffic into the East Gate, with a huge ‘Trident is Terrorism’ banner and four people attached to improvised ‘lock-on’ devices to prevent their removal. Alongside Yorkshire protesters locked to a suitcase filled with concrete were two wonderful Belgian activists from Agir pour la Paix with a reinforced metal arm tube. It was over two and a half hours before police cutting teams were finally able to unlock the blockaders, all the while serenaded by peace singing.
Entertainment during the day included street theatre by Sheffield Creative Action for Peace (SCrAP) in which they transformed a Trident Missile into a Wind turbine, the ‘Arms to Renewables’ group organising Wind Turbine prop making workshops, a performance by The Pop-up Poet and an appearance by Green Party Co-Leader Jonathan Bartley. In an excellent speech Bartley reaffirmed his party’s total opposition to Trident and the need to move engineering skills and investments away from armaments and into renewable energy technologies.
At 1.20pm two Youth CND campaigners were able to sneak past police and lock themselves to another suitcase full of concrete.
Police cutting teams took a long time to arrive, as they were busy at the West Gate, where Trident Ploughshares, London Region CND and Faslane Peace Camp blocked the entrance for virtually the entire day, so again the East Gate entrance was blocked for over two and a half hours.
There was a total of eight arrests at the East Gate and it was successfully shut down for more than five hours over the course of the day.
(with help from GM&D CND website)
I went to the Arms Fair protest on 9 October. We went to the West Gate as it was felt best to try and make a real showing there, and sure enough when I arrived people were locked on across the road, so no traffic was getting in. There were so many people (and police) across the road surrounding them I never actually got near enough to see them on the ground. There was also a line of about six mounted police standing to one side.
It was announced that there would be an "act of worship" next to a large Quaker banner which was further along the road. After a few minutes the mounted police moved across to be as close as possible to this banner and those gathering around it. This was extraordinary! Many people (including me) went to ask these police officers why they were doing this, and lots of bizarre conversations started up. Eventually all these police horses were moved back to where they had been before. An exercise in futility.
Towards the end of the afternoon several people approached carrying a very large puppet, which they laid down right across the road. It was completely covered in canvas bandages, with "bloody" hands and feet, and across its chest was written "All War is a Crime". As it was laid down a recording started of battlefield sounds - shooting, explosions, screaming etc. This lasted for several minutes, and was very powerful and extremely moving.
It was a good day, lots of friendly people from all over Britain and some from elsewhere, lovely vegetarian food served from a small tent for a donation, a choir and lots of peace songs. And the wonderful locked-on people did cause a real impediment to the inward traffic.
It deserved a lot more publicity than it received!
The vigil outside the ExCel Centre on the evening before the opening of the London Arms Fair was a very moving occasion. The date reminded us of the horrific and tragic chain of events that have characterised recent years. There was a short introduction stressing the importance of working for a better world and then we all stood in silence for an hour and our candles and lanterns provided points of light as darkness fell.
Outside the Centre a notice said ‘Welcome’ but I’m not sure we were. We were ushered into the area, which was fenced off, by a group of police men and women who kept us under surveillance. We were only there courtesy of the owners – a firm called Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company which owns the land. It’s not public land. As taxpayers we were paying the police to make sure we didn’t damage the firm’s property. But that’s a minor inconvenience compared with those on the receiving end of the weapons on sale in the Centre.
On Thursday 7 September Veterans For Peace UK (VFP UK) conducted a vehicle check point on the route into the ExCel Centre during the setup of the DSEi Arms Fair, in order to search for banned weapons. At previous arms fairs, weapons that contravene the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (landmines, booby traps, incendiary weapons, blinding laser weapons) and the Convention on Cluster Munitions have been found to be on sale. These are conventions to which the UK is a signatory. So there were reasonable grounds for suspecting that such weapons were being transported into the Excel Centre for the Arms Fair. This search was obstructed by the police.
During this year’s Arms Fair VFP deployed a covert search team into the Excel Centre to record what was being sold and promoted. Among the many stands their team found on display a prototype laser weapon system in the 50kW class, known as Dragonfire.
Although not widely known, the Royal Navy deployed laser weapons during the 1982 Falklands War. A recently declassified letter from the Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Heseltine) in January 1983 stated “You may recall, however, that we developed and deployed with great urgency a naval laser weapon, designed to dazzle low flying Argentine pilots attacking ships, to the Task Force in the South Atlantic. This weapon was not used in action and knowledge of it has been kept to a very restricted circle.”
The “Laser Dazzle Sight”, reportedly developed in 1981, was also deployed on various ships in the nineties, especially in the Gulf of Arabia. The MoD have always claimed that it was not designed to blind, but merely dazzle. However, with any laser weapon it is very difficult to predict what will dazzle and what will blind.
The Dragonfire weapon is considerably more powerful than the “Laser Dazzle Sight” of the 1980s. Will the Dragonfire weapon system contravene the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons of which the UK is a signatory? The relevant section of that convention is the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons and the following post investigates this question in detail:
There was an enormous variety of protest activities during the week. If you start here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoYBCOIPNGw one film leads to another.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the celebrity chef, has said he will donate to charity any profits made by his River Cottage outlets during the world’s largest arms fair in London’s ExCel centre last month.
“Generally we are committed to sharing our seasonal, sustainable approach to food with all. However, we do not want to profit from the spend of the arms trade,” said Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall, “I have therefore made a decision to make a donation, equivalent to River Cottage’s profits from our ExCel sales throughout the period of the event, to one of our favourite charities, Warchild.”
Eight anti-arms trade protesters accused of unlawfully disrupting the DSEi Arms Fair in 2015 were cleared in April 2016 at Stratford Magistrates’ Court after the judge accepted their argument that they had tried to prevent greater crimes, such as genocide and torture, by blocking a road to stop tanks and other armoured vehicles from arriving at the DSEI exhibition where they claimed illegal arms trading was taking place.
But the case was appealed to the Crown Court and then to the High Court, where two judges overruled the magistrates' court. Lord Justice Simon and Sir Kenneth Parker ruled that District Judge Angus Hamilton “misdirected himself in law” when he permitted the protesters to use the crime prevention defence under section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 – that defence was not relevant because there was no evidence that the commission of a crime was “imminent and immediate” at the time the eight chained themselves up outside the centre. There was no evidence of any illegal arms trading at the 2015 exhibition but the protesters regarded it as reasonable to assume the level of illegal activity was similar to what had allegedly occurred at earlier events, said Lord Justice Simon. The court decided not to order a retrial, saying it was not necessary in the “overall interests of justice”.
The international police organization's general assembly has cleared the way for Palestine to become a member. Some 75 countries voted in favour, with 24 voting against and 34 abstaining. “The State of Palestine and the Solomon Islands are now INTERPOL member countries,” Interpol said on Twitter after the vote in Beijing.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry, which said earlier that Israel’s efforts to delay a vote until next year had failed, had no immediate comment on the decision. Israel had contended that Palestine is not a state and that it is ineligible for Interpol membership. Under interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deals, a Palestinian Authority was granted limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
“This victory was made possible because of the principled position of the majority of Interpol members,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki said in a statement.
“On this joyous occasion, the State of Palestine reiterates its commitment to upholding its obligations and contributing to fighting crime and furthering the rule of law,” Maliki said.
Environmental Protection Minister Ze'ev Elkin blasted the Palestinians for what he described as their "diplomatic war" against Israel and urged the government of which he is a cabinet member to "immediately cancel all of the goodwill gestures we have made towards that Palestinian Authority and freeze all of the special permits PA leaders use." Elkin claimed the Palestinians' decision to join Interpol was "in complete contradiction of all of the PA's commitments from the past two years."
Former foreign minister and current opposition lawmaker Tzipi Livni said the Interpol vote was "a bad decision - bad for Israel and bad for the war on terror." Though she too said the move contradicted the Palestinians commitment to avoid unilateral steps while talks were still ongoing, she placed some of the blame on the Israeli government for leaving a "diplomatic vacuum" with the Palestinians. "When Israel abandons the diplomatic field – the Palestinians step up and take it, and, sadly, they also manage to win in ways that harm Israel."
In 2012, the UN General Assembly upgraded the Palestinian Authority’s observer status at the United Nations to “non-member state” from “entity”, like the Vatican. The step fell short of full UN membership, but it had important legal implications in allowing the Palestinians access to international bodies, should they choose to join.
Interpol's goal is to "connect" policing forces around the world, "preventing and fighting crime through enhanced cooperation and innovation on police and security matters.
21 September is designated the International Day of Peace, and each year we commemorate it in Kingston on the nearest Saturday by inviting members of the public to write a message on a paper dove and hang it on our ‘peace tree’, outside the gates of All Saints Church.
As usual it proved a popular event this year, particularly with children, and we had lots of interest until a very heavy downpour caused us to have to cover the stall and tree and limit our activities to leafleting.
At the end of our session, with the permission of Revd. Jonathan Wilkes, we moved the tree into the church, where visitors were encouraged to add their messages of peace to the tree.
Over four thousand children have been told about the International Day of Peace this year. KPC members Mary and Maggie visited twelve primary schools in Kingston and Richmond during two weeks in September to speak in assemblies.
In each school, Mary spoke about peace within and the need for peace in the world. The children looked at slides and picked out symbols of peace. They were asked to tell friends and families about Peace Day on 21 September and to draw a picture or make a card to mark the day. Maggie followed this with stories to illustrate various ways in which the children could help “to make the world a more peaceful place” by controlling their anger, cooperating, apologizing, mediating or behaving without aggression.
The schools vary very much – one that was visited had nearly 800 pupils while others just one hundred and fifty. One has, for quite a number of years, done many activities to make the children more aware of the need for peace including holding on 21 September a sponsored walk with the money going to a project in Afghanistan. This school has a beautiful Peace board showing a rainbow made of hand shapes surrounded by children’s writing about peace.
In all the schools the children responded well, were attentive and well-behaved. Answers to questions were not always what was expected – especially from four-year-olds – but the responses were heart-warming with young children thinking seriously about the world and their part in it.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Gill Hurle
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND