Disarmament Campaigns

By Disarmament Campaigns

Campaign Against Arms Trade

IN 1974, A NUMBER OF BRITISH ORGANISATIONS, including Pax Christi, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Quakers, came together to set up the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). Since then CAAT has been working to end the international arms trade. It has a particular emphasis on stopping Britain's involvement in the arms trade.

CAAT has not been very successful from one point of view. The international arms trade has increased its business from U.S. $12,982 million in 1974 to U.S. $21,308 million in 1986. British military exports have soared from £1,000 million in 1979, when Mrs. Thatcher first came to power, to £5,800 million in 1986. CAAT has had real success in raising the arms trade as an issue and in making people aware that the United Kingdom (U.K.) is in the business of exporting death. By the end of the 1970s all major British Christian denominations had come out against the arms trade. In at least one case, when Rolls Royce workers refused to release four jet engines destined for Chile until ordered to do so by the courts, trade unionists acted to stop an arms export. During the 1987 General Election all the major opposition parties supported the control and reduction of Britain's arms exports, and an end to exports to governments with bad human rights records.

The secrecy surrounding British arms exports means that the only sale the group is known for certain to have stopped was of armoured cars to El Salvador in 1978, when the Labour Party was in power. It is likely that the Conservative government did not go ahead with the sale of an especially nasty "internal security" vehicle to Chile in 1984 after details of the proposed deal were leaked and an uproar ensued. A deal to supply Landrovers to Iran did not go through after public protest in 1986. Other successes include the removal of electric cattle prods from display at government arms sale fairs and a ban on the export of leg irons.

CAAT has two full-time co-ordinators, plus a Development Education Worker who researches and produces material on the effects of the arms trade on Third World development. CAAT relies heavily on office volunteers and Local Contacts who raise the arms trade as an issue in their area. They encourage local disarmament, development and human rights groups, churches and political parties to act against arms sales.

Part of CAAT's work is liaison with other anti-arms trade groups in Western Europe. This liaison started in 1984 when Pax Christi/Netherlands called an international meeting to discuss action against the arms trade. Since then a network of anti-arms trade groups has met at least once a year. In September 1987 the International Peace Bureau used the arms trade as the theme of their annual meeting in Malmo, Sweden. The network agreed on practical steps for exchanging information. For example, it has been invaluable to put British newspapers wanting to know about the smuggling of explosives to Iran in touch with Swedish colleagues, who have done the major research on this.

The European network includes groups from Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K. and West Germany. They plan to meet in early November (contact BUKO, Buchtstrasse 14/15, 2800 Bremen, FRG) and in Italy in the spring of 1989. For information about their newsletter, contact Pieter van Rossem, Pax Christi/Netherlands, Postbus 85627, 2508 CH The Hague, Netherlands.

By Ann Feltham, of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, 11 Goodwin Street, Finsbury Park, London N4 3HQ, GREAT BRITAIN. Tel. 01 281 0297.

NEWS SHORTS

A MARCH FROM SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO

TO THE town of Ceiba, where the U.S. Roosevelt Naval Base is located, took place 23 and 24 April. Marchers protested the U.S. nuclear submarines which visit the base. The visits violate the Tlatelolco Treaty, which declares all of Latin America a nuclear-free zone. The organisers, Caminantes Por La Paz, had previously held a march in June 1985 which 5,000 people attended.

POLAND'S FREEDOM AND PEACE (WIP)

has written a report on the annual peace action at Mrzezyno on the Baltic Sea. The cultural actions have taken place every year since 1985. The town was chosen because it is also the site of a Russian/Polish firing ground where, according to WIP, nuclear missiles are stored. The report, written in German, is called Diary From Mrzezyno and is an account of the first direct peace actions in a Warsaw Pact country, says WIP members. The organisers are seeking groups or individuals who can help to publish the report.

BELAU

THE BELAU CASE TO UPHOLD THE PACIFIC archipelago's nuclear free constitution scored a recent court victory. On 22 April Judge Robert Hefner, an American associate judge in Belau's Supreme Court, ruled the 4 August 1987 referendum, which tried to change Belau's constitution, as "null, void, and of no effect." This invalidates the 21 August 1987 referendum that had approved the Compact of Free Association between Belau and the U.S., allowing U.S. nuclear warships on Belauan territory. Twenty-two women, who had opened the lawsuit in August last year, re-opened the case on 31 March; the case had been dropped in September 1987 due to the violence threatening the plaintiffs. A total of 163 people are now plaintiffs. The women have requested 24-hour police protection.

Donations for the legal defence fund can be made to: Roman Bedor, P.O. Box 58, Koror, BELAU 96940; or Sarita Rios, Centre for Constitutional Rights, 666 Broadway, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10012, U.S.A. Contact: Charles Scheiner, Box 1182, White Plains, NY 10602, Tel. 914 428 7299.

AUSTRIA

THERE IS A DEBATE IN THE Austrian Parliament to extend the length of time for alternative service for conscientious objectors (C.O.s). C.O.s currently serve eight months, which is the same length of time as military service. Conservatives are asking for a length of 10 to 14 months. The Ministry of Internal Affairs, which deals with alternative service, opposes the possible extension, but may be prepared to make a compromise. Each applicant for conscientious objector status must appear before a commission, which determines the sincerity of the applicant. A man recently committed suicide after having his C.O. application turned down by a commission. Austrian leftists, including the Socialist Party, want the commissions abolished. Conservatives may be willing to support such a move if leftists vote for longer alternative service.

Austrian peace activists are also concerned about conservative moves to abolish a law which bans Austria from selling arms to countries at war. State-owned weapons factories are selling artillery to Iran, which violates the law and Austria's neutrality. Conservatives want the law abolished or the factories privatised.

Contact: ARGE Zivildienst, Schottenpesse 3A, A-1010, Vienna, AUSTRIA. Tel. 63 80 653.

CZECHOSLOVAKIA

FOR THE FIRST TIME, two representatives of the Czech human rights organisation Charta '77, Jaroslav Sabata and Rudolf Battek, were allowed to join an official peace council conference in their country. Charta '77 was invited to participate in the symposium by the secretary of the Dutch Interchurch Peace Council (IKV), Mient Jan Faber, and Pax Christi/ Netherlands secretary Jan ter Laak, the Dutch participants in the symposium. When the peace council leadership agreed to Sabata and Batteck's participation, several members of the "old guard" left the room. According to Faber, the bureau director of the peace council, Josef Krecji, and the foreign secretary, Ivan Fiala, especially supported Charta '77.

The symposium, held 14-15 May with participants from 15 countries, focused on the task of the peace movement after the accord over intermediate range missiles and on the consequences of the Helsinki accords, especially in the area of human rights. There was much greater interest in that topic.

Sabata received much approval for his plea for the withdrawal of all foreign troops in Europe. He insisted on a national reconciliation in Czechoslovakia and removal of the barriers between the various groups in the country. He cited Charta '77's participation in the symposium as a step in the right direction.

Contact: IKV, Postbox 18747, 2502 ES The Hague, NETHERLANDS. Tel. 070 46 97 56.

PORT VISITS

AT A BRIEFING DURING the NATO 27-28 April meeting in Brussels, representatives from the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS), Denmark's Nej Til Atomvaben (NTA), and the Belgian CACTUS-80 group discussed their campaigns against port visits of nuclear capable warships. Sweden and Denmark had successful actions last year; in Copenhagen, NTA members dressed in military uniforms and convinced a U.S. ship crew to move their vessel, meanwhile publicising the presence of the U.S. ship. The Belgians expressed frustration with their campaigning, due largely to the peace movement's focus on the cruise missile base at Florennes. Zeebrugge is a U.S. naval port, but because ships only visit the harbour, unlike the continual cruise presence at Florennes, public awareness is low on the issue. Whether Belgium will follow Denmark's lead in demanding nuclear free national waters depends largely on CACTUS-Brugge's work.

Contact: CACTUS-Brugge, St. Amandstraat 13, 8000 Brugge, BELGIUM. Tel. 21 33 20 14; SPAS, Bronnkyrkagatan 76, 11723, Stockholm, SWEDEN.

NATO WATCH

As the NATO Nuclear Planning Group (NPG) meeting was moved abruptly from Kolding to Brussels, groups such as NATO Summit Watch, Denmark's No to Nuclear Weapons (NTA), NATO Alerts Network, Oxford Research Group, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), Belgian groups CNAPD, VAKA and others acted quickly to keep NATO's decisions public. A series of press conferences was held during the NPG's meeting (26-28 April). At the first well-attended conference, support was given for Denmark's resolution to uphold openly their nuclear free policy. While NATO reacted to Denmark's move as something unusual and new, Judith Winther of NTA recalled the history of the resolution: In1957 Denmark declared its nuclear free policy and in 1963 the Prime Minister, affirming the policy, said that NATO was certainly aware of this position.

NATO Alerts Network, a coordination of national parliamentarians working in all NATO states to inform parliaments of NATO decisions, organised a press conference of 16 women parliamentarians who had met with their defence ministers. The contradictions and withholding of information by NATO defence ministers on the current NATO issue of weapons modernisation was made quite clear. While "no decision" is made on modernisation, for example, weapons "up-dating" is a "natural process," according to the Italian defence minister.

The aim of NATO Alerts Network and Oxford Research Group is to empower to the public by informing them of this duplicity and lack of communication within their own governments. The Network plans to send a delegation of women parliamentarians to every NATO meeting to meet with defence ministers, and to organise with peace groups similar press conferences to make public what governments are deciding behind NATO's closed doors.

Contact: NATO Summit Watch, Rue des Bollandistes 22, 1040 Brussels, BELGIUM. Tel. 734 23 32; Oxford Research Group, 32 Warnborough Road, Oxford OX2 6JA, GREAT BRITAIN. Tel. 0865 242 819; CND, 22-24 Underwood St., London N17 JG.

No Nuclear Armed Ships in Danish Harbours?

ON 14 APRIL THIS YEAR A MAJORITY IN THE Danish Parliament passed the following resolution: "Ascertaining that it has been Danish policy during the last 30 years not to accept nuclear weapons on Danish territory, including Danish harbours, the government is called upon to inform visiting warships about this policy."

The resolution is a contribution to global public efforts to control the increasing armament of the seas. It is important to examine the political intricacies that surround it.

When plans of the resolution were first rumoured, the American Ambassador in Denmark told Danish politicians that, if it should pass, no NATO warships would come to Denmark, there would be no common exercises at sea, and there would be lasting consequences for defence cooperation. The resolution, he said, would probably lead to an election in Denmark. The idea of an election thus seems first to have been made by a US Ambassador. From Britain came the message that the passing of such a resolution would severely endanger the possibility of British reinforcement troops to the country in the event of war, as no exercises could be carried out.

AS MORE THAN 60 PERCENT OF THE DANISH population want Denmark in NATO, these threats were serious. They were reinforced by the cancellation of a visit of British warships to several Danish towns and the moving of the NATO Nuclear Planning Group (NPG) meeting, with less than a week's notice, from Denmark to Brussels. Informed sources insist that this was done at the initiative of the Danish government. Whoever made the suggestion first, it was decided unanimously at a NATO council meeting. "There was a feeling of solidarity with a government in trouble," one of the diplomats said after the meeting. Immediately afterwards the conservative government called an election, calling it a NATO election.

Several NATO delegates expressed the hope that the Danish election "won't damage the cooperation and the solidarity within the alliance." They added hurriedly that they "of course don't want to interfere in the national debate in Denmark"! To this, Karsten Voigt, a Social Democratic Party (SPD) member of West Germany's Parliament, replied: "This attempt to utilize official NATO representatives for domestic policy matters is a political game with fire."

Why these exaggerated reactions from other NATO governments? Why this interference with another country's policy? Nobody was talking of leaving NATO. The resolution was not very radical. It was a politically acceptable way to stress Denmark's nuclear-free policy. Moreover, Iceland said exactly the same in 1985, and that decision has been respected by nuclear armed ships without any discussion. The US Ambassador explained frankly during discussions with Danish politicians: The US fears the chain reaction such a resolution may cause. The NATO reaction may also be seen as a warning against a Nordic nuclear weapon free zone.

These NATO reactions are not only exaggerated but dishonest: Lord Carrington says the resolution goes against the NATO policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence of nuclear weapons on warships. But both the US and the USSR possess the necessary technology to verify the presence of nuclear weapons at a distance. Gorbachev confirmed this fact at a press conference in December last year. This means that this policy is aimed only at the public.

According to Admiral Eugene Carroll, Deputy Director of the Center for Defence Information in Washington, DC, NATO does not plan to use nuclear weapons in the Baltic Sea or other Danish waters at all. If they want to hold exercises in Danish waters with nuclear weapons on board, nobody can hinder them, for there are international passages through all these waters. It will only be the harbours and water close to the coast that they can't use. A more appropriate solution would be the suggestion of Reagan's adviser, Paul Nitze. He suggests removing all tactical weapons from the warships.

All Nordic countries have reservations about nuclear weapons. The anti-nuclear position has, however, never been implemented consistently. This is where pressure from below is trying to bring about change. Iceland's attitude toward the visit of nuclear armed ships has been the most strict; Denmark's, before the resolution, the weakest. Norway sends a letter to warships before visits, referring to the special Norwegian principles without directly mentioning nuclear weapons. In its caution, the Norwegian approach resembles a proposal by the Danish conservative government. They propose sending a letter to other countries stating that, since 1957, Denmark has refused nuclear weapons on its territory, including harbours and national waters.

The anti-nuclear parties, especially the Social Democrats, have also received many support letters. Solidarity among anti-nuclear populations continues to grow.

By Judith Winther of Nej Til Atomvaben (No to Nuclear Weapons). Contact: Nej Til Atomvaben, Dronningensgade 14, 1420 Copenhagen K, DENMARK. T 1 54 86 86.

[PEACE Magazine's update:The May 10 election did not change the parliamentary composition from centre-right. Still, Prime Minister Schlüter resigned and Social Democrat Svend Jakobsen, Speaker of Parliament and interim leader, was called upon to produce a government alignment willing and able to actively enforce Denmark's resolution. Events on July 2, however, suggest that the effort may require maintenance. The American warship USS Conyngham was held up in the Danish port of Aalborg by protestors aboard a Greenpeace vessel. The captain refused to divulge the nature of the ship's armaments and was consequently held up for eight hours. When finally he reached port, opposition politicians threw a letter on board signed by Social Democrat Svend Auken. It was tossed back to shore. It had advised USS Conyngham of Danish policy, to no avail. Prime Minister Schlüter issued a note affirming Danish policy without specifying his government's concern with nuclear arms in particular. This ambiguity may be viewed as a considerable retreat and may be a result of NATO pressures.]

Peace Magazine Aug-Sep 1988

Peace Magazine Aug-Sep 1988, page 18. Some rights reserved.

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