23rd June 2016
SEVENOAKS CITIZENS CHALLENGE TO UK’S NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Campaigners from across Sevenoaks have formed a group called “Sevenoaks Action for Peace with Justice” and it is taking part in the Public Interest Case Against Trident (PICAT) campaign coordinated by Trident Ploughshares.
The campaign is seeking a citizen’s prosecution of the Government and specifically the office of the Secretary of State for Defence for conspiring to commit a war crime by its active deployment of the Trident nuclear weapon system.
Sevenoaks is the constituency of the current Secretary of State for Defence, the Rt Hon Michael Fallon MP.
Our group wrote to the Secretary of State for Defence and asked him to sign a Declaration on behalf of the Government that affirms an undertaking that among other things the UK’s nuclear weapons will not be used, or their use threatened, in such a way as to cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or long term and severe damage to the natural environment.
Michael Fallon answered our letter on 8 June 2016 and refused to sign the Declaration. However, he confirmed that the UK would not use our nuclear weapons contrary to international law. He added that the legality of any use could only be determined in light of the circumstances applying when such use is being contemplated. Our group maintains that there are no circumstances where the use of nuclear weapons would be in accordance with international law.
Our group also wrote to Sevenoaks Magistrates’ Court and asked it to start the process of a criminal prosecution against the corporate office of the Secretary of State for Defence. The Court passed our letter to the Clerk to the Justices for Kent who replied on 10 June 2016 and refused to issue a summons for reasons that the campaign thinks are challengeable.
However, a court case cannot commence without the consent of the Attorney-General. Our group wrote to the A-G on 15 June 2016 and asked him to give his consent for us to proceed with our criminal prosecution. Another group wrote a similar letter to him on 19 February 2016 and they are still waiting for a response. It appears that establishment figures are doing their best to avoid any court case about the legality of Trident from commencing. If consent for the case is not forthcoming from the Attorney-General then the campaign will consider approaching the International Criminal Court.
Peace campaigner Angie Zelter, who has developed the PICAT project along with international lawyer Robbie Manson, said:
“The government has consistently refused to give evidence to prove how Trident or any replacement could ever be used lawfully. This campaign is an attempt to find a court willing to examine objectively if the threat to use Trident
is in fact criminal as so many of us think it is. It is a matter of vital public interest.”
Robbie Manson said:
“I remain very firmly of the view that it is both an immensely worthy and worthwhile cause to pursue these matters, even in court, and with vigour given the enormity of the humanitarian need, political significance and the scale of the diplomatic hypocrisy upon which our political masters rely for the achievement of their designs.”
Jim Pragnell for Sevenoaks Action for Peace with Justice said:
“So-called nuclear deterrence is about threatening the most indiscriminate violence possible, unrestrained by morality or the law. The Government supports nuclear deterrence but is not prepared to accept the moral and legal consequences of using nuclear weapons, which use is being planned on a daily basis to make the threat believable. It tells the public that nuclear weapons can be used in accordance with international law, which in my opinion is unbelievable. I hope that this campaign will establish whether the threatened use of Trident by the Government has any legal basis. The public deserve to know this, not least those people who, unlike me, support the renewal of Trident.”
General queries about Sevenoaks Action for Peace with Justice: Jim Pragnell 01959 526814 07788 740510 firstname.lastname@example.org
General queries about PICAT: Angie Zelter 01547 520929 07456 588943 email@example.com
Legal queries: Robbie Manson 01239 615921 firstname.lastname@example.org
Campaign webpages: http://picat.online The legal case to be presented in court is set out on this website.