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The Peace News log

At a London training day, women prepare themselves to lobby for nuclear disarmament.

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Paula Shaw, Dr Rebecca Johnson and Sheila Triggs (left-right) at a WILPF UK training day on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in London, 7 April 2018.

'We need to recognise that we can change the debate in this country and this treaty gives us the means to do so' said Rebecca Johnson on 7 April, at a WILPF UK training day on realising the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Dr Johnson is a member of the British branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF UK) and founding co-chair of the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

WILPF UK had invited members and non-members to an interactive training day on lobbying for the TPNW in the UK. The purpose of the day was to provide an opportunity to develop negotiation and lobbying skills. Participants received background information about the treaty and the UK context, as well as practical advice on campaigning. We were fortunate to have speakers who had been present in New York during the final negotiations leading up to the UN adoption of the treaty. Janet Fenton (of WILPF UK and Scottish CND) gave an account of the successful WILPF campaigning efforts in New York.

Taniel Yusef (WILPF UK) highlighted the core humanitarian values and aims of the treaty, followed by Dr Rebecca Johnson who provided insight into key issues in the UK context. 'This is a real treaty in the real world. When the UN bans something, it stays banned', she reminded us as an encouragement to use the very existence of the treaty as an argument in meetings with MPs.

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The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has been given permission to keep putting the British government's arms trade policies on trial – over the Saudi-led war on Yemen.

On 4 May, the British court of appeal granted permission for the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) to appeal the legality of British arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

CAAT took its legal case to the court of appeal on 12 April for a one day hearing in an attempt to overturn a high court judgment which allows the UK government to continue to export arms to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen.

On 4 May, two court of appeal judges, lord justice Irwin and lord justice Flaux, granted permission to appeal, and the case will be heard by the court of appeal in the months ahead.

For more than three years the government has refused to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia – despite overwhelming evidence that UK weapons are being used in violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen.

'Given the evidence we have heard and the volume of UK-manufactured arms exported to Saudi Arabia, it seems inevitable that any violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by the coalition have involved arms supplied from the UK. This constitutes a breach of our own export licensing criteria.' – Parliament's International Development and Business, Innovation and Skills Committees, October 2016

Ignoring massive public pressure to stop the arms sales, the government has instead done everything it can to maintain its relationship with Saudi Arabia, the UK's biggest arms customer.

We can’t and won’t let this stand.

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A Metropolitan Police disciplinary board has found against one of its own, a former undercover police officer with the notorious Special Demonstration Squad who deceived three women activists into relationships.

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British undercover police officer Jim Boyling

Today, 3 May 2018, former undercover police officer Jim Boyling has been found guilty of gross misconduct for pursuing an unauthorised sexual relationship with 'Rosa' (a pseudonym) using his false identity, failing to inform his line management of the extent of his relationship, and disclosing confidential information to his target.

A disciplinary panel convened by the Metropolitan Police heard evidence from his former partner 'Rosa' / DIL, who was deceived into a relationship with Boyling in 1999 when he infiltrated 'Reclaim the Streets' and 'Earth First!' using the cover identity 'Jim Sutton'. Boyling also had prior relationships with two other women in 'Reclaim the Streets': 'Monica*' and 'Ruth'.

Less than two weeks before the disciplinary hearing, which was scheduled to last three weeks, Boyling opted not to attend the hearing or send a representative to challenge the evidence but made no formal admission to the allegations. His defence consisted only of written responses he gave in prepared statements. The panel nonetheless considered those responses along with other evidence, including video interviews with Rosa /DIL. Despite his failure to attend the hearing to challenge the evidence, Boyling made statements to the press in which he attempted to portray himself as the victim of unjustified police persecution who was too poor to attend the hearing. His statement asserted 'If you're going to pick on anybody, the family with the terminally ill children will probably be the weakest.'

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What is a sustainable diet? Is a vegan diet necessarily sustainable? And what's blocking moves to a more sustainable food system? Ian Sinclair investigates.

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Last year public health nutritionist Dr Pamela Mason and Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at the Centre for Food Policy, City University of London, published their book Sustainable Diets: How Ecological Nutrition Can Transform Consumption and the Food System with Routledge.

After reviewing the book for Peace News, Ian Sinclair asked the two researchers what they mean by sustainable diets, what role veganism can play, and what concerned people can do to quicken the transformation to a sustainable food system.

Ian Sinclair: What is your definition of a sustainable diet?

Pamela Mason and Tim Lang: A sustainable diet has often focused on a diet that is protective for the planet, particularly for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs). Given that food systems account for 25-30% of GHGEs, this is an essential consideration for sustainable diets, but we believe that a sustainable diet should be defined more broadly to include public health, cultural acceptability, accessibility, safe and affordable food, and the health and welfare of all who work in the food system. We are in agreement with the definition of the FAO and Bioversity (2010) which defined sustainable diets more broadly than nutrition + environment (or calories + carbon), as “Sustainable Diets are those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources”.

IS: You note that standard Western diets are far from sustainable – causing obesity and non-communicable diseases, with the rich world “eating as though there are multiple planets”. How do our diets in the West need to change for them to become sustainable?

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Celebrating CND's 60th anniversary with profiles of some of its offices around England, Scotland and Wales.

CND Cymru

CND Cymru is the center of the Welsh anti-nuclear movement. Before it was established in 1981, the Welsh branch of the CND was made up of a collection of smaller groups spread out across the region. This network of local associations shared a commitment to decreasing the significant role of nuclear power and nuclear proliferation in Wales through mass protest of local nuclear power plants and loud opposition to military campaigns. In the last few decades, CND Cymru has grown to have over 1,000 members across Wales and connections internationally even though the branch itself is only run by a group of 10 core volunteers. 

An interview with Brian Jones, CND Cymru vice chair:

What are some of the issues that CND Cymru has been working on recently?
Jones: 'I guess that the main issues that we've been campaigning on will not be a surprise to you; nuclear weapons, supporting ICAN [International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons] and the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and opposing the UK's plans to renew Trident. Unlike some of the other branches, we do not really have a particular focus. For me at least, the nuclear issue is the end all, be all.'

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A Yemen-related nonviolent direct action near Birmingham.

People's Weapons Inspectors, Roxel missile components factory, 9 April 2018On 9 April, the People's Weapons Inspectors visited a Roxel factory which builds propulsion systems for missiles. Their aim was to carry out a 'people's weapons inspection', to find out whether parts built at this factory (near Kidderminster in Worcestershire) might be used by the Saudi military in the war in Yemen.

The inspectors believed that the factory was manufacturing components for Brimstone missiles that are due to be exported to Saudi Arabia for use on Saudi Tornado jets. Ekklesia reported: 'The People’s Weapons Inspectors, some from ecumenical Christian peace group, Put Down The Sword, decided that they had to act when on 12 March 2018, an order in progress for one thousand Brimstone missiles for Tornado jets appeared on the Stockholm International Peace Resaerch Institute (SIPRI) Arms Transfer Database.' Inspectors came not only from the Christian-Quaker direct action group Put Down the Sword, but from the London Catholic Worker

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Iraq is the forgotten war that continues to destroy lives, writes a long-time visitor to Iraq, US peace activist Cathy Breen.

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Building in Mosul, Iraq, decimated by bombing, March 2018. Photo: Abu Mohammed

 

Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet and professor of Creative Writing at Texas State. Her father was Palestinian and a refugee journalist. In one of her poems after 9/11, entitled 'Blood,' she writes:

I call my father, we talk around the news.
It is too much for him,
neither of his two languages can reach it.
I drive into the country to find sheep, cows,
to plead with the air:
Who calls anyone civilised?
Where can the crying heart graze?
What does a true Arab do now?

I myself tried to write something for the 15 year 'commemoration' of the US war against Iraq, but wasn’t able to complete it. It was too much for me. A couple of months ago I was invited to go to the Northwest to speak about 'Fifteen Years After the War.' It was too much for me emotionally, and somewhat shamefully I had to decline.

As I write, I have the phone next to me. I am texting a young Iraqi boy who is alone in Turkey. About 10 months ago, he was kidnapped in Iraq. Through a chain of events, he ended up in Syria. About two months ago, his father was contacted and was able to get his son smuggled across the border into Turkey. Last month, his son turned 18 years of age and was eligible to register as a refugee with the UN refugees' agency, UNHCR. But he will not get an interview for many months to come.

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Three Palestinian communities face immediate expulsion from their homes in the Jordan Valley and near Jerusalem, and two more in the coming months, warns the Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem.

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On 22 November, B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, issued a press release detailing the continuing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

The release reported that over the previous month the state had informed three Palestinian communities, two in the Jordan Valley and one near Jerusalem that it intended to expel them from their homes and land, giving them eight days to leave. The notification was made by leaving orders on the roadside. The three communities, largely Bedouin, comprise 414 people, including 151 youths and children under 18.

Such expulsions of Palestinians from areas in the West Bank, especially in the fertile Jordan Valley, have continued for many years. In the past, efforts were based mainly on military orders concerning planning and building. However, the proceedings concerning such orders are protracted and require the precise mapping of the land and buildings, as well as the issuing of separate demolition orders for each building.

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Benjamin reports on the Open Rights Group's digital rights conference, ORGCon 2017

ImageORGCon, is a  high profile conference, featuring some of the worlds foremost speakers on digital freedom. This year's event on 4th November 2017, drew a mix of activists, academics and digital professionals to Friends Meeting House in London.

The conference organiser, Open Rights Group is the UK's only grassroots organisation working to protect our right to privacy and free speech online. Throughout the day, a stream of very engaging speakers kept the audience entertained, as well as enthralled as they outlined new dangers from digital technologies and what we can do to push back.

Last year the UK government passed the Investigatory Powers Act, the most extreme surveillance law found in any democracy. Even those who choose to remain, as far as possible, off-line are impacted by their connected neighbours, so ORG's work is increasingly important.

It has been three years since the previous ORGCon and the range of speakers brought debates up to date. The weekend left the audience with a strong sense of work to be done and of opportunities for action. Such a large gathering also provided opportunities for networking. Saturday's programme followed an auditorium format. But Sunday offered more intimate sessions, with more space for planning campaigns.

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Andrea Needham reports on the recent trial of Sam Walton and Dan Woodhouse in Burnley

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Sam and Woody with supporters outside the court

Poor old British Aerospace. Not only were the first group of people to break in to their Warton site in Lancashire to disarm a warplane acquitted, now the second lot have also been found not guilty. It's curious how difficult it appears to be to convict people for acting peacefully to prevent war crimes.

The first such disarmament action took place in January 1996, when a group of women (myself included) broke in and disarmed a Hawk warplane being sold to Indonesia for use in their brutal war on the people of East Timor. Six months later, all of us were acquitted by a jury, having made the defence that we were simply using reasonable force to prevent crime, as allowed in British law.

The serial number on the casing was visible, showing that the bomb was made by Raytheon in Glenrothes, Scotland, after the war against Yemen started.

The second action took place exactly 21 years later (the date was a happy coincidence), when Sam Walton and Dan Woodhouse broke in with the intention of disarming Typhoon, Tornado and Hawk warplanes which BAE is selling to Saudi Arabia. As we all know, Saudi Arabia is pursuing a brutal war in Yemen, which has led to thousands of civilian deaths. The almost total destruction of the infrastructure of the country has caused the biggest outbreak of cholera in recorded history, and millions of people are on the verge of starvation. Yet BAE continues to sell warplanes, other British companies sell bombs, and the British government falls over itself to appease the fragile Saudi ego, touchy as the rulers are about accusations of war crimes.

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