Citizens Weapons Inspections
by Alyn Ware and Giovanni Nifosė



Following the 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is generally illegal and that there is an obligation to eliminate them through negotiations, teams of citizens have been attempting to inspect nuclear weapons facilities in order to ascertain whether states are making any progress in adhering to these requirements (see Bombs Away! (hardcopy), Fall 1998). Below is a sample of these. Note: An annotated bibliography of cases involving inspections and other direct actions has been developed by Giovanni Nifosė and will be available at www.lcnp.org/publications soon.

Kleine Brogel


On February 21, 1999, a group of Belgian Members of Parliament, artists, leaders of social groups and activists attempted a citizen weapons inspection of a NATO base at Kleine Brogel. It is believed that B-61 nuclear weapons are deployed on the base and operated by the US Munition Support Squadron. Following a refusal by Base Commander Buyse to allow the inspectors inside the base, activists cut a hole in the fence and over one hundred citizen inspectors entered. A number were attacked by dogs, including MPs Patrick van Krunkelsven (President of the Flemish Regionalist Party) and Johan Malcorps, who required hospital treatment. 120 people were arrested and released.


Volkel Air Force Base


Citizen weapons inspections were attempted or conducted at a number of nuclear weapons sites in Europe on Saturday,  April 24, 1999, the 50th anniversary of the founding of NATO. The inspections developed additional significance in light of NATO's bombing of Serbia and its negative impact on nuclear disarmament. Alyn Ware participated in an inspection at Volkel Airforce base in the Netherlands. It is believed that the US deploys between 10 and 30  B-61 free fall bombs with W-80 warheads at the base and that these are available to the Dutch Air Force during time of war under nuclear sharing arrangements between the US and Netherlands. The Non-Proliferation Treaty prohibits the transfer of nuclear weapons between states parties. As the inspectors were not permitted to enter the base,  four  proceeded to dig under the fence to gain access. They were arrested, charged and  released for trial at a future date.

Abolition Walk from
World Court to NATO HQ


On May 27, 1999, approximately 500 peace activists arrived at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, most of them having walked from the International Court of Justice in The Hague,  on the 2000 Walk for Nuclear Abolition organized by For Mother Earth. A letter challenging  NATO's illegal nuclear policies and practices and seeking specific information on the numbers, locations, yields and targets of NATO nuclear weapons had previously been sent to NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana. 

A delegation of five activists, including Alyn Ware, was allowed into the headquarters to meet with press officer Nick Fiorenza and legal adviser Baldwin De Vidts, but the meeting did not produce the information sought. The NATO representatives were then informed that the activists would exercise their rights and responsibilities under the Nuremberg principles to take further non-violent action in order to prevent commission of war crimes and crimes against peace by NATO and that such actions would include attempts to enter the site to gather additional information. Once the activists started, they were beaten by the security police and fired upon with water cannons. Many were arrested. For Mother Earth activists continued actions at the base over the next two days. Over 260 arrests resulted. See www.motherearth.org

 

Hibakusha at Los Alamos

On August 6, 1999, about a dozen activists from France, Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom, California, Texas, and New Mexico gathered near a building where components of the first US nuclear device were assembled, at Los Alamos National Laboratory.  Hibakusha Seiko Ikeda and Sueko Motoyam of Nagasaki, in the first such visit of survivors of the US atomic bombings to the lab, described the horror of the blasts they experienced as children and spread thousands of sunflower seeds as homage to the victims and as symbols of  the developing abolition movement.  Led by LCNP's John  Burroughs, others read portions of the ICJ advisory opinion and provisions of international law under which the US bombings and subsequent development and deployment of the US arsenal were and are illegal. (The source for the reading, "Legal and Policy Bases for Citizen Verification of the Elimination of Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Weapons", is available at www.lcnp.org/wcourt or from LCNP.) On August 9, 1999, about 75 people were arrested in a "cross-the-line" protest at the lab organized by Peace Action. They were quickly released, and no prosecution is planned.

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base


On December 10, 1998, six members of a Citizen Weapons Inspection Team in Tucson, Arizona, were convicted of trespass following their attempted inspection of Davis-Monthan AFB for weapons of mass or indiscriminate destruction, namely depleted uranium ammunition. Following testimony from Base Commander Corley that the ammunition could be deployed at a moment's notice, Judge Eisenberg conceded that the defendants' action was in response to an imminent threat and was done in order to prevent harm, but said there were other reasonable alternatives to the action. The judge praised the defendants' depth of commitment and sentenced them to six months unsupervised probation and 10 hours of community service.


Lockheed Martin


Thousands of people have signed petitions demanding a Citizens Disarmament Inspection of Lockheed Martin to determine if its Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, facilities are in compliance with the World Court opinion. Lockheed Martin is the largest war contractor in the world, and the US government's chief nuclear weapons contractor. On January 18, 1999, Martin Luther King Day,  the Brandywine Peace Community attempted the inspection of three facilities during a walk through the complex. Fifteen people were cited for criminal trespass and released. Contact: Brandywine Peace Community, POB 81, Swarthmore, PA 19081. Tel:  (610) 544-1818. Email: brandywine@Juno.com

 

 

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