THREAT: Ban military preparation in the new treaty

The discussions are now focused on the second draft of the proposed treaty to ban nuclear weapons ongoing in New York, and it is going well. There are still some additional improvements that we hope can be made, and one is to address ‘threat of use.’ Many states at the negotiations have asked about incorporating a prohibition on the threat of use of nuclear weapons. One way to get this is to have an explicit prohibition on military preparations for use.

Military preparations could include refuelling aircraft, exercises in preparation for use or targeting and other fighting arrangements. These are examples of activities but are not he only ones. Any concrete or tangible activity could be included, and this has been done with the chemical weapons convention, for example. This would remove or reduce the facilities needed for general military planning and training. It would also undermine or de legitimise the nuclear weapons secret structures, and lead to a more communicative approach with more democratic accountability for military planning decisions and improved open collective approaches to military alliances. This allows a shared public understanding of how these work and what they are. It is important to remember that NATO may have a nuclear strike policy, but that policy is not entrenched in the treaty itself, and could be changed. Modifications to the planes for example, would prevent future nuclear weapons capabilities. If the ban treaty includes the prohibition on military planning, that would accelerate the change in view of nuclear weapons away from ideas of stability to an understanding that nuclear weapons are instruments of terror and instability, and this will, at last, undermine and discredit the entrenched but psychotic and dangerous concept of deterrence.

The democratic benefit of transparent and accountable practice can, at last, provide the possibility of exploring ideological differences without risking the survival of our species.

from New York – half way there!

Continuing into this week of the negotiations, everyone is very aware of the deadline ahead, and it seems that the diplomats share civil society’s ardent desire to create an effective and unambiguous treaty by the end of the negotiating period.

The closed sessions continued today, allowing for questioning and plain speaking . Side events and work done outside the room was also looking forward in some respects, addressing how the finished treaty might be shared and what our collective and separate next steps might be. This included pushing forward on the ideas from our Scottish panel and extending them to explore ways that nuclear armed states and those that see themselves as dependent can share experience and tactics to build capacity, so a group is becoming established to do that. It was seen as essential to discredit any suggestion that the treaty is some sort of protest about who has the power instead of an expression of how inherently unacceptable nuclear weapons have been proved to be.

We hope that there has been sufficient mention from member states to ensure adding to the treaty’s main prohibitions threat of use, financing, military alliance planning, and transit. Fixing health and environmental impacts must be undertaken without discrimination, a binding responsibility that gives an entitlement to assistance from all states. If, as we hope, threat is one of the prohibitions we need to be ready to move forward in public education that the dogma of so-called nuclear deterrence has at last been discredited as a legitimate activity in any international relations that comply with the principles of United Nations.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/30835738@N03/

We also had some fun outside the UN with some masks and our own, non-lethal and non-radioactive ‘bomb’ as you can see in our action pictures. In addition to those, and some great new videos – Beatrice explaining the main elements of the new draft version of the treaty, and the International Red Cross and Red Resent video you can find on Facebook. Key arguments were strongly communicated in the conference by diplomats as well as some great inputs from the NGOs. (Most of these cannot be attributed or reported from the closed door sessions.)

At the close of today’s session, Dr Rebecca Johnson spoke to diplomats about four outstanding requirements.

First, a secretariat to promote the Treaty’s purposes and implementation would be able to engage with other bodies and also with states that are seeking to join.

Secondly, the the treaty should be of unlimited duration and not permit withdrawal.

Withdrawing from this Treaty would threaten international peace, security, human rights and our globally shared environment. At the very least if there must be withdrawal arrangement they should require a minimum of 24 months notice to give time to examine reasons and ensure that withdrawal did not suggest a security value in nuclear weapons or threaten global peace and security, as underpinned in the UN Charter.

Thirdly, to make it as inviting and credible as possible for states to join, implement and comply with the treaty,whether they choose to join and then implement, or to implement and then join in all cases to ensure necessary international verification and accountability. The text must avoid creating confusion or loopholes.

And lastly, while welcoming support and reinforcement of the NPT’s core objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, it is wrongful and also unnecessary for this Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty to mention any form of civilian energy production anywhere in its text. Referring to NPT “rights” is not only legally unnecessary, as the two treaties will exist alongside each other, but potentially dangerous.

 

CAN SCOTLAND DISARM THE UK?

In any referendum on independence, the people of Scotland are afforded a rare privilege, the power to cast a vote which can lead to nuclear disarmament. In the United States and France there has never been an election where a party advocating nuclear disarmament had a serious prospect of winning. Support for disarmament is widespread across society and civic Scotland, beyond the Scottish National Party membership to include Greens, Socialists and many individuals who eschew party politics. If Scots reject nuclear weapons, the UK would not have an alternative site.

Trident would not be relocated. Scotland free of nuclear weapons will lead to London having to scrap Trident and its replacement. Relocating Trident is not like moving house. In fact, finding a site for Trident would be far harder than trying to shift a nuclear power station. Two new facilities would be needed: a submarine base to replace Faslane and a nuclear weapons’ depot to replace Coulport. The second would be the biggest problem.The original choice of site was Scotland, and possible locations that were rejected are now even less viable. Greenfield sites are scarce, and nuclear activity is permissible only on existing nuclear sites.

The Scottish Affairs Committee of the UK Government considered the issue in 2012. Nick Harvey, Armed Forces Minister, said that relocating Trident was “the least favoured option, ”adding ”it would take a very long time to complete and would cost a gargantuan sum of money”. He told them, “Coulport would be very difficult.” Rear Admiral Alabaster said, “it would be very difficult – in fact, I would almost use the word ‘inconceivable’ – to recreate the facilities necessary to mount the strategic deterrent, without the use of Faslane and Coulport.” The Committee concluded, “Identifying and recreating a suitable base to replace Faslane and Coulport would be highly problematic, very expensive, and fraught with political difficulties.”

Utilising a facility abroad was also discussed. The UK government response to the Scottish Affairs Committee summarised the problems, “Operations from any base in the USA or France would greatly compromise the independence of the deterrent and there would be significant political and legal obstacles.” The Scottish Affairs Committee in the House of Commons acknowledged that unilateral nuclear disarmament would be an inevitable consequence of independence, if a Scottish government pursued current SNP policy and insisted on safe removal of Trident. Rear Admiral John McAnally, former Commandant of the Royal College of Defence Studies, said “If Britain were expelled from Faslane…it could be forced into unilateral nuclear disarmament”.

In June 2012 Scottish CND published a report which argued that the Trident nuclear weapon system could be put beyond use within 7 days, that all nuclear warheads could be removed from Scotland within 2 years and that they could all be dismantled within 4 years. The Scottish Affairs Committee of the House of Commons said: “ We accept the analysis of Scottish CND that, with the cooperation of the Navy and the UK Government, this process would be both speedy and safe” and the Scottish Government’s response was: “We are firmly committed to the earliest possible withdrawal of Trident from Scotland …. The suggested timetable is a welcome indication of how quickly Trident could be removed once Scotland has the powers to decide its own defence and security policy” The removal of Trident might be even more rapid. If the appearance of an independent anti-nuclear Scotland was imminent, Washington might insist that the American built missiles and the nuclear warheads, which contain American components, were removed from Faslane and Comport, and not left on the territory of an actively anti-nuclear sovereign state.

While the arms industries in England and America might try to use their muscle, we will have support from the many non-nuclear nations who are behind the global initiative for the Ban Treaty. It is wrong to suggest that if Britain abandoned Trident this would have no effect on the rest of the world. It could break the logjam and lead to wider progress towards nuclear disarmament. With a nuclear-free UK, France would have to reassess its expensive nuclear programme.

We must secure a constitutional clause for a future independent Scotland that puts nuclear weapons beyond the pale for any future Scottish Government. The Ban Treaty creates an imperative, and it underscores existing enthusiasm. Scotland’s commitment to nuclear disarmament is growing and becoming more articulate, a process which has gained traction since devolution and the establishment of a devolved parliament elected by proportional representation.

Scotland’s legal institutions and system of law was maintained after the union of the crowns and the parliaments of England and Scotland. It is distinct and separate from the rest of the UK. In 2009, a high-level legal conference was convened to consider Trident and International Law; Scotland’s Obligations. His excellency the late Judge Christopher Weeramantry, former vice-president of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) told the conference that while defence matters are reserved to The UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament has international humanitarian and legal obligations that weapons of mass destruction violate. He said, “ Gross violations of international obligations aren’t excluded from the purview of the Scottish Parliament. The absence of power in the former area cannot cancel out its responsibilities in the latter.” He also asserted that non-violent resistance to nuclear weaponry could be justified in international law.

Anti-nuclear civil resistance is the right of every citizen of this planet. For the nuclear threat, attacking as it does every core concept of human rights, calls for urgent and universal action of its prevention.”

Non violent direct action has led to court cases where the legal status of the UK’s nuclear weapons sited in Scotland is challenged and reported. Tracking and recording the movements of warheads on public roads has led to many more people in Scotland becoming aware of the danger and the impunity in the UK Government’s actions in disregarding the will of the people.

Despite Prime Minister May’s view that the time for another referendum on Scottish independence is ‘ not now’, the current political situation in the UK and the increased support for Jeremy Corbyn might lead to a new opportunity to vote on Scotland’s future sooner rather than later. The Ban Treaty will be a spur to that happening, as we hope that Scottish opposition to UK nuclear policy can be a spur to changing it.

Note:

Further information from the late John Ainslie’s reports No Place for Trident and Disarming Trident on the Scottish CND website (http://www.banthebomb.org/index.php/publications/reports) or the office in Glasgow, his chapter in Reaching Critical Will’s Assuring Destruction for Ever and also from Trident and International Law – Scotland’s Obligations, published by Luath, Edinburgh

BANNING THE BOMB AT UN

The final session in the time that the United Nations allocated for its members to produce a treaty to ban nuclear weapons has began today.

In March, 133 states and numerous delegates to the Conference from the world’s civil society organisations made presentations and had the discussions that enabled the Chair, Ambassador Elaine Whyte Gomez from Costa Rica and her team to produce the draft text for the treaty that will now be at the centre of the work to be done between now and the 7th July when it is anticipated that the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty will be ready for signing.

There was powerful sense of excitement and an enthusiasm for the work amongst civil society representatives as well as the diplomats as the first part of the treaty, the preamble that identifies all the core elements to be incorporated, was explored one paragraph at a time. While one could imagine that this would be a dry and pedantic process, no one involved lost sight for one second of the significance of the task being undertaken and the consideration and attentive listening created a very exciting sense of progress and hope.

The activity was enthusiastically and prolifically shared on social media, and messages of support and appreciation were flowing in from across the world, for this ban is what’s wanted and needed by so many of the people in so many places.

Many states had similar ideas about how to augment what was in the draft, with discussions around the gendered impact of the harm and of the importance of women’s voices in the dialogue, and the importance of integrating recognition of the impact of nuclear weapons on social and economic development.

Most states and civil society wanted to strengthen the draft provisions around international humanitarian law and there was recognition that the treaty needs to clearly function in relation to existing legal instruments, including the Non Proliferation Treaty while addressing the shortcomings of these.

There were smiles and greetings in and outside the room, and the first side event of the conference, which considered how the treaty would be verified and the questions arising for both nuclear free and nuclear armed states.

We hope that agreements can be reached threat, and preparations to use nuclear weapons, and the Scottish delegates are particularly interested in the issues of the transit of nuclear weapons and hoping for an explicit prohibition on this and also on financing, and look forward to tomorrow’s side events, the launch of the latest counter arguments book from Quaker Peace and Social Witness Tim Wallis, and a pizza party with an opportunity to make banners and other props in preparation for Saturday, and the Women’s March to Ban The Bomb.