SEVENOAKS CITIZENS CHALLENGE TO UK’S NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Campaigners from across Sevenoaks have formed a group called “Sevenoaks Action for Peace with Justice” and is taking part in the Public Interest Case Against Trident (PICAT) campaign coordinated by Trident Ploughshares.
The campaign aims to institute a citizen’s prosecution of the Government and specifically the office of the Secretary of State for Defence for breaching international law by its active deployment of the Trident nuclear weapon system.
Sevenoaks is the constituency of the current Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon MP.
We wrote to the Secretary of State for Defence on 1 May 2016 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 civilian life or long term and severe damage to the natural environment.
The Ministry of Defence answered our letter on 7 June 2016 and refused to sign the Declaration. However, it maintains that the UK would not use our nuclear weapons contrary to international law, without explaining how on earth they could do this.
We have written 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 based in Chatham who deals with private prosecutions.
A court case will require the consent of the Attorney General and we have written to him and asked for his consent. Another group wrote to him on 19 February 2016 and are still waiting for a response. If consent for the case is not forthcoming from the Attorney General the campaign will then consider approaching the International Criminal Court.
Our group will be gathering at Sevenoaks Magistrates’ Court at noon on 11 June 2016 to symbolically hand in our criminal information documents. Photographers from the media are welcome to witness the event.
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, the use of which is being planned for to attempt to make the threat believable. It tells the public that they can be used in accordance with international law, which frankly 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:
General queries about PICAT: Angie Zelter 01547 520929 07456 588943 firstname.lastname@example.org
Legal queries: Robbie Manson 01239 615921 email@example.com
The legal case to be presented in court is set out on this website