News in brief

City, city, city

On 9 May, Renfrewshire council passed a resolution urging the Strathclyde Pension Fund to stop investing in businesses involved in the construction and development of nuclear weapons.

The fund, managed by Glasgow city council, has £89m invested in 11 such companies, according to Don’t Bank on the Bomb Scotland. (See PN 2545, 2588–2589, 2628-2629)

In December, Renfrewshire passed a resolution supporting the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) Cities Appeal.

In May, Berlin, Paris and Oslo also signed up to the ICAN Cities Appeal, joining Washington DC and others.

Busy, busy, busy

The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) is waiting to hear the results of a major appeal, on its legal case against British arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen.

In mid-April, the court of appeal in London heard legal arguments from CAAT that an earlier judgement in the high court should be overturned. The government should be banned from allowing such sales, CAAT believes.

Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK government has licensed £4.7bn worth of arms to the Saudi regime.

CAAT has been busy protesting in the last few months, including outside the DPRTE arms fair in Farnborough (blasting music and speeches over the fence) on 28 March, and inside the AGM of BAE Systems on 9 May (see Ameen Nemer’s account on p20).

CAAT is also running all over the country preparing people to take action at the DSEI arms fair in East London in September.

Inspectors freed

On 29 March, two US Veterans for Peace were released from prison in Limerick, Ireland, after being arrested at a protest against the US military base at Shannon airport on 17 March. Shannon is used for refuelling US troop planes bound for the Middle East.

Tarak Kauff (82) and Ken Mayers (77) entered the airfield to investigate a plane on contract to the US military. They were charged with: causing a security breach; €2,500 worth of criminal damage to the fence; and trespassing on a taxiway.

They were awaiting trial when we went to press – their passports have been confiscated.

Here’s a lead

Who’s offering training in nonviolent direct action right now?

Free Palestine

Two Palestinians were on indefinite hunger strikes in Israeli prisons at the time of going to press. Odeh Haroub (32) and Hasan Awawi (35) were among 470 or so Palestinian civilians being held in Israeli ‘administrative detention’ without charge or trial.

By 13 May, the pair had completed 41 days on hunger strike, according to the Palestine Prisoners’ Society (PPS).

At the beginning of May, 25 Palestinians and four Israelis died during days of violence in and around Gaza. Israeli airstrikes and artillery completely destroyed 18 residential buildings and family homes, a mosque, several schools, three media offices, and three ambulances, according to the Ma’an news agency.

Israeli soldiers continue to shoot unarmed demonstrators in Gaza’s Great March of Return protests every Friday. On 10 May, they shot dead Abdullah Abd al-Aal (24).

As of February, 183 Palestinians had been shot dead, and 6,106 wounded with live ammunition, according to a UN commission of inquiry (see PN 2628–2629)

Support the Cowley

On 31 May, Brighton’s Cowley Club launched a £10,000 appeal to repair its roof. The Club is a volunteer-run social centre on London Road. Open since 2003, it is a hub for the local activist community, including Smash EDO and Earth First! More info:

Springfield sprung

Over 50 people wore nuclear waste barrel costumes to protest outside the Springfields nuclear fuel manufacturing plant near Preston, Lancashire, on 27 April.

There was also a live video conference with indigenous people in communities adversely impacted by uranium mining. Speakers included Nikki Clark (South West Against Nuclear), Rowland Dye (Trident Ploughshares), Kate Hudson (CND), and Ruth Owens (anti-fracking Nanas)

Treaty treats

27 more countries need to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) for it to come into force. 50 states need to not only sign the treaty, but ratify it (in democracies, this usually requires parliament to pass a law).

The first three countries to ratify the TPNW were Guyana, Thailand and the Vatican (all on 20 September 2017).

The other ratifiers are (in chronological order): Mexico, Cuba, Palestine, Venezuela, Palau, Austria, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Uruguay, New Zealand, Cook Islands, Gambia, Samoa, San Marino, Vanuatu, St Lucia, El Salvador, South Africa and Panama.

Five Pacific states and 10 from the Americas make up the bulk of ratifiers so far.... Keep track with ICAN:

Western Sahara

British companies are involved in the illegal exploitation of phosphate from Western Sahara, a new report has revealed.

One of the resources that Morocco illegally exports from occupied Sahrawi territory is phosphate, the element used in artificial fertilisers. Western Sahara has been one of the world’s largest suppliers of high-quality phosphate rock.

Morocco invaded Western Sahara in 1975 and has illegally occupied the territory ever since. Western Sahara Resources Watch has successfully lobbied shipping companies to withdraw from Sahrawi phosphate transportation.

British insurance companies provide ‘protection and indemnity’ (P&I) insurance for many of the cargo vessels that carry Sahrawi phosphate rock around the world.

Four British ‘P&I Clubs’ covered 18 phosphate shipments from Western Sahara in 2018, according to P for Plunder, a new report from Western Sahara Resource Watch.

The vessels involved carried nearly a million tonnes of conflict phosphate to Canada, India, New Zealand and the US.

For example, the Lady Giovi transported 79,000 tonnes of Sahrawi phosphate to the US in August 2018. It was one of four conflict shipments insured by UK P&I Club, whose head office is 90 Fenchurch Street, London.

The Triton Swan, which carried 59,000 tonnes of Sahrawi phosphate to India in March–April 2018, was one of eight conflict shipments insured by the West of England Ship Owners Mutual Insurance Association, head office 226 Tower Bridge Road, London.

The Britannia Steam Ship Insurance Association, head office 45 King William Street, London, licensed three phosphate shipments from Western Sahara which carried 177,000 tonnes in total.

The exact same total, 177,000 tonnes, was shipped (all to Canada) under cover provided by the North of England P&I Association, head office 100 The Quayside, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Another British connection to the illegal phosphate trade is Borealis Maritime Ltd, based at 55 Brompton Road, London. This is the company that operated the Bomar Oyster, which carried 54,000 tonnes of stolen Sahrawi phosphate rock to India in August–September 2018.

The Moroccan state company that exports Sahrawi (and Moroccan) phosphate is called OCP (Office Chérifien des Phosphates). It reported $562m in profits in 2018.

OCP is registered on the Irish stock exchange, where its affairs are co-managed by Britain’s Barclays bank (along with Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan, from the US). The Barclays head office is in Canary Wharf: 1 Church Hill Place, London.

The full P for Plunder report from Western Sahara Resource Watch can be downloaded from: