Almost 300 people representing more than 20 countries attended the "First Global Radiation Victims Conference" in New York City, 26 September to 4 October. The conference dealt with a broad range of radiation-related subjects from the world-wide effects of Chernobyl's fallout to the impact of all phases of the nuclear weapons/ nuclear power production cycle. Crucial to the conference were the testimonies given by nuclear radiation victims. These people are often isolated groups or individuals whose weak political voices need to be heard.
Native American representatives pointed out that this conference was the first time they had ever participated as equals in a conference in the United States. Government or industry negligence and refusal of information was often stressed, and Dr. Saburo Murata of the Hannan Chuuou hospital in Japan reported on his research which indicates a needed revision of international radiation standards. Dr. Murata found a greater severity of illness in victims exposed to radiation as children and said current standards are not based on the weakest group, the growing fetus and childrin, but on adults.
The conference concluded that an urgent and accelerated programme is needed for health research into low-level radiation; that both military and commercial use of nuclear power must be stopped and waste management must be revised. Also, a new international commission to replace the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) should be established, to be both politically independent and publicly accessible and accountable.
Finally, it was agreed to work toward a second global conference to be held within the next two to three years. Source: WISE Bulletin, P.O. Box 5627, 1000 AP Amsterdam, Netherlands. Contact: International Institute of Concern for Public Health, 830 Bathurst Street, Toronto, Canada M5R 3G1.
Through intensive lobbying before and during the recent Social Democratic Congress, the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS) succeeded in influencing Sweden's Parliament about port visits by nuclear ships.
After a long debate, the Congress agreed that Sweden would work for international cooperation to force nuclear powers to stop their policy of neither confirming nor denying whether their vessels carry nuclear weapons during port visits. In case nuclear powers refuse to comply, Social Democratic Party officials must ensure that Swedish rules concerning port visits be made precise: nuclear arms are not allowed to enter Swedish territory, including Swedish air space. If this agreement isn't made, the visit will be refused. A SPAS staff member said that what is remarkable is that the Swedish government admitted the weakness of the current policy on port visits. However, no date has been set for an international discussion on this issue, which is necessary in order to pressure nuclear powers to comply.
Demonstrations against port visits were held recently in Copenhagen. In Stockholm on 16-19 October, protestors greeted two U.S. vessels, one of which was known to be nuclear capable. A fleet of small boats met the ships, while other demonstrators gathered at City Hall. SPAS considered the demonstration a great success.
Contact: SPAS, Brannkyrkagatan 76, 111723 Stockholm, Sweden. Tel (46) 8 68 02 00.
Western peace groups are slowly responding to the Iran/Iraq war and the escalating violence in the Gulf. Despite large arms sales from Western Europe to both sides, the "enormous complexities and the problem of relating the war to traditional peace movement concerns" have stopped peace groups from being more active on the issue, said Mark Salter of the London-based European Nuclear Disarmament (END) at a recent meeting of the International Peace Communication and Coordination Centre (IPCC).
The peace movement "hasn't paid much attention" to the increasing U.S. presence in the Gulf, said Bruce Birchard of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), despite its being "potentially very serious" and the strong possibility that "the whole thing will escalate." AFSC sent a telegram to President Reagan and the chairmen of the Senate and House Foreign Affairs Committees, protesting the U.S. destruction of an Iranian oil rig in retaliation for an Iranian missile attack on a U.S. flagged ship in the Gulf. The telegram called on Congress to invoke the War Powers Act and called on the "American public to press for non-military peacemaking remedies." The message ended with an appeal to Iran and Iraq "to accept a U.N.-facilitated cease-fire and subsequent negotiations."
Forty people also picketed the White House after the October bombing of the oil rig. The picket was organised by another major American peace group, SANE/Freeze, and the local Washington Peace Centre. There were scattered demonstrations in other U.S. cities such as Minneapolis, Minnesota. An earlier protest over the Gulf in that city had received good local media coverage. On 15 August the group Women Against Military Madness organised a peace flotilla, floating canoes on a city lake, which called for the U.S. to get out of the Persian Gulf. The group charged President Reagan with "risking nuclear war for reasons which have not been explained to us...We have made new enemies and lost the confidence of friends. Dangerous alliances, secretly arrived at, continue to embroil us in quarrels over which we have no control."
There are signs that the European peace movement is looking more carefully at the Gulf situation. Die Gruenen (the West German Green Party) circulated a proposal for a coordinated European action, to be held as soon as possible, to protest European and American intervention in Middle East affairs. The paper suggested a blockade in the major port cities of countries whose ships have joined U.S. warships in the Gulf. These countries include Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy. The proposal reads in part: "The risk of setting off a full-scale war is increasing with every additional Western warship in the Gulf. However, the idea that Western navies have to protect 'our oil' in the Middle East is still highly unpopular in Europe, even though the Khomeini regime is in fact a reactionary repressive regime." Contact: Robin Jacobitz or Juergen Maier, Die Gruenen, Colmanstr. 36, Postfach 1422, 5300 Bonn 1, FRG. Tel. 02 28 69 20 21.
* Seven talks between Spain and the U.S. have resulted in Spain's telling the U.S. to withdraw its 72 nuclear-capable F-16 fighter planes from the Torrejon base outside Madrid. Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez also said a new agreement must be drawn up concerning the U.S. military presence in Spain. The U.S. has about 12,500 troops, four military bases, and several communications facilities in Spain. Contact: Comision Anti-OTAN, Campommes 13, 28013 Madrid, Spain.Tel. 1 247 0200.
* According to New Zealand peace researcher Owen Wilkes's article in Peacelink (Oct. '87), the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is moving in a pro-NATO direction with the appointment of new Director Walther Stutzle. SIPRI, which publishes the "Yearbook on World Armament and Disarmament," has been a widely-respected source of information for peace movements for years. Stutzle is a former adviser to Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and is financing a new politically-sensitive project with funds from the MacArthur Foundation. This Foundation has a very questionable history, says Wilkes, who worked at the Institute for three years. He says SIPRI data may not be as useful or reliable as in the past because of these changes. Contact: Peacelink, P.O. Box 837, Hamilton, New Zealand. Tel. 071 390 568.
* A network is being organised of Third World women who are working on issues connected with militarism. Women working on such topics are requested to send their name, address, research topic and list of publications to: Eva Isaksson, Coordinator, Hauhontie 8 F34, 00550 Helsinki, Finland.
* France conducted its largest nuclear test in two years on 23 October in French Polynesia. A state of emergency was declared in Tahiti the following weekend, after a violent clash between police and 500 striking dockworkers left many wounded and over 70 arrested. Tahiti depends economically on France's Pacific Experimentation Centre. The Coordination and Action Committee for a Stop to Atomic Testing in Polynesia asks that letters of protest be sent to: High Commissioner Pierre Angeli, Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia; or Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, Hotel Matignon, 57 rue de Varenne, 75700 Paris, France. For more details, contact: JAD, 19 Cite Dupont, 75011 Paris, France.
* Conscientious objectors (C.O.s) were well represented in the annual War Resisters' International Roll of Honor to commemorate the annual Prisoners for Peace Day on 1 December. Supporters of a gaoled French C.O. occupied part of Notre Dame in Paris on 11 October to demand his release; and in Spain an estimated 20,000 C.O.s are expected to defy alternative service conscription in January, when a new constitutional law comes into effect which treats C.O.s and military conscripts on an unequal basis. In addition, C.O.s in Poland will be the focus for next year's International C.O. Day on 15 May. Contact: War Resisters' International, 55 Dawes St., London SE17, U.K. Tel. 01 703 7189; and MOC-Madrid, c/o San Cosme y San Damian 24-2, 28012 Madrid, Spain.
* The Kinsahasa Peace Research Institute/ Institut de Recherche sur la Paix, founded in May 1987, is requesting publications and information on disarmament, economic, human rights, and security issues, both in Africa and around the world. They also hope to be put on peace groups' mailing lists. IRP requests help in acquiring publishing equipment (computer, printing machinery) and in establishing a nursery school. Initiated by Mr. Ndandu Y Mahania and Mr. Henry Lebailly, IRP will incorporate science and spirituality in working according to the values of peace for development. Contact: Kinshasa Peace Research Institute, Domaine de Matadi-Mayo, Mont-Ngafula, Zaire. p
* The Peace and Meeting Center in Mutlangen (FRG) has, in cooperation with the German section of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, set up a military counseling network for conscientious objectors in the U.S. Army. There are two known cases of American conscientious objectors known in Germany this year: Sergeant Mark A. Lane was discharged from the Army on 13 March and Peter M. Kreas was discharged in August.Contact: Verssoehnungsbund e.V., Kuhlenstrasse 5a-7, D-2082 Uetersen, FRG.