Legal history was made in Liverpool, England on July 30 when four women - the Seeds of Hope Ploughshares - were acquitted of criminal damage charges after three of them used hammers to disable a Hawk trainer-fighter jet. The disarming action took place at the British Aerospace (BAe) plant at Warton, north of Liverpool, shortly before the Hawk was to be delivered to the Indonesian armed forces, which had ordered 24 of the planes. The women claimed full responsibility for their actions, arguing defence of necessity - that they disabled the Hawk to prevent a more serious crime, the Indonesian government's war against the people of East Timor.
Ploughshares' actions are nonviolent acts of direct disarmament, carried out both as a personal witness against war and as a way of raising awareness of war preparations. Seeds of Hope was the first initiative of this sort to win an acquittal through defence of necessity. It was also the first all-woman Ploughshares action.
Immediately after the shock acquittal, BAe's legal team tried to serve restraining writs on the four women, suspecting that they would try again to set foot on BAe property. The four - Angie Zelter, Jo Wilson, Andrea Needham, and Lotte Kronlid - tore up the papers. They have since instructed a lawyer to begin a private prosecution against BAe for aiding and abetting the murder of civilians in East Timor.
Seeds of Hope Ploughshares, 55 Queen Margaret's Grove, London N1 4PX, England
On Aug. 6, 30 people turned themselves in to the Welsh national police. Considering the recent ruling of the International Court of Justice, and the acquittal of the Seeds of Hope Ploughshares women, they confessed to the crime of paying income and VAT taxes used for British nuclear programs, in violation of international law. Police declined to make any arrests.
The Nuclear Resister
Greenpeace, the Nuclear Control Institute, and the Natural Resources Defense Council have filed a petition with the United States' Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) asking that it turn down a request by the Los Alamos National Laboratory to export plutonium to a test reactor in Canada.
The groups claimed the export of bomb material as civilian fuel would harm U.S. national security and would prejudice the outcome of an ongoing federal environmental review of options for disposing of surplus plutonium. These options include direct disposal of plutonium as nuclear waste, as well as combining it with uranium for use as a mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel in reactors that produce electricity.
The petitioners warned that issuing the license could stimulate commercial production of MOX fuel in the U.S. and encourage MOX industries in Europe and Japan. They noted that the Clinton administration's policy is not to encourage civil use of plutonium.
The petitioners also warned that non-Canadian CANDU operators (e.g., Argentina, India, Romania, and South Korea) "are likely to seize on the [plutonium export to Canada] as a precedent to justify their own use of plutonium."
The groups have asked the NRC to grant a full hearing on the Los Alamos application to ensure that its proliferation implications are thoroughly assessed.
Copies of the 37-page petition are available upon request and will soon be available for download from the World Wide Web.
Contact Tom Clements at Greenpeace, 202/319-2506.
The Ukrainian capital, Kiev, was recently the site of alarm after two radiation bursts inside the sarcophagus that covers the destroyed Chernobyl nuclear reactor. On Sept. 12 and 16, instruments inside the sarcophagus recorded neutron levels many times those typical since the massive accident at the power plant in April 1986. Increased gamma ray levels were also reported. This was not the first time such phenomena had been observed; similar instances occurred in 1990 and in January this year.
For some days after the latest incidents government authorities, as in 1986, revealed nothing. Then on Sept. 24, Ukrainian Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety Minister Yury Kostenko warned that another explosion was possible at Chernobyl.
National leaders and Ukraine's large and influential nuclear power establishment played down the dangers by claiming that the increase in neutron emissions, recorded by three of 10 measuring devices inside the sarcophagus, had not occurred at all. Heavy rains were said to have raised the levels of humidity inside the sarcophagus, causing the devices to malfunction.
Among the Ukrainian population, suspicion increased that authorities were hiding something.
Pro-nuclear interests in Ukraine have now advanced subtle argument, which has been given prominent treatment by newspapers in neighboring Russia. This argument holds that the warning of a possible explosion was a ploy to spread alarm in the West and force the G-7 group of countries to meet pledges of aid to Ukraine.
This April, leaders of the G-7 countries agreed to come up with U.S. $3 billion to build a new sarcophagus and shut down the remaining Chernobyl reactors. Representatives of the G-7 and Ukraine were due to meet in Paris on Oct. 11, and the topics expected to be discussed included the Chernobyl funding.
The cost of closing Chernobyl will be enormous; the Ukraine government last year estimated the expense at U.S. $4 billion. Western governments that have pushed nuclear power as a cheap, environmentally acceptable option have no right to deny this aid.
For information contact PeaceNet at peacenet-info@-igc.apc.org.
While the award of the Nobel Prize to two leaders of the Timorese resistance has focused world attention on Indonesian-occupied East Timor, a brutal crackdown on dissidents is underway in Indonesia itself.
Since the military seized control of the headquarters of an opposition political party in July, sparking several days of riots in Jakarta, hundreds of nonviolent activists for human rights and democracy have been arrested. Between 25 and 75 people have "disappeared" and several have been killed.
The government is attempting to blame the riots on the PRD, a small pro-democracy organization whose members are mostly students. The PRD has been falsely branded as "communist," a frightening charge from a government which came to power through the slaughter of about half a million alleged "communists." The leader of the PRD is now in jail, charged with subversion, which can carry the death penalty. Two union leaders, one of them the head of the country's largest independent trade union, are also charged with subversion. At least 39 nonviolent activists have been arrested - the charges against them are not clear in many cases. Many, perhaps most, of those in custody have been tortured, judging from marks seen on their bodies by relatives visiting them in prison, and the reports of some who were detained but later released.
Others have been subjected to police harassment - offices have been searched and papers confiscated, and many leading figures in the democracy movement have been summoned for repeated interrogations. In one case, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Institute was summoned and threatened in order to try to force him to provide information about one of his clients.
Meanwhile, the Canadian government has been silent, though even Indonesia's usually loyal supporter, the U.S. government, has expressed concern and delayed (but not cancelled) a sale of F-16 fighter jets. It was recently revealed that Canada has, in the last two years, granted more than $350 million in export licenses for arms to Indonesia.
The Indonesia Solidarity Network is a newly-formed Canadian organization working in support of human rights and democracy in Indonesia. ISN can be reached c/o 527 Markham St., Toronto M6G 2L4; phone 416/537-7290; or c/o P.O. Box 33733, Station D, Vancouver, V6J 4L6; phone 604/261-7930.
by Maggie Helwig
It has been 10 years since Mordechai Vanunu was first kidnapped by the Israeli secret police, subjected to a secret trial, and sentenced to 18 years in prison. Ever since then, he has been held in solitary confinement in Ashkelon Prison in a cell measuring approximately six by nine feet.
Vanunu had been employed as a technician in Israel's nuclear weapons plant at Dimona. Over time, his conscience had increasingly come to trouble him, until finally he put an end to it. He took some 60 photographs inside the factory and left Israel with them. In 1986 he told his story and provided photographic evidence to the Sunday Times of London. But before the story was published, he was kidnapped.
In September, numerous people around the world gathered outside Israeli consulates to call for humanitarian treatment of this man. Joseph Rotblat, winner of last year's Nobel Peace Prize, has nominated Mr. Vanunu for the same prize and convened a conference in Tel Aviv in October to promote the defence of all whistle-blowers.