News in brief

Western Sahara

Solidarity campaigners have forced a judicial review of the British government’s post-Brexit trade deal with Morocco.

That was the decision of the high court in London on 28 June, after Western Sahara Campaign UK made an application in March against both the department for international trade and the treasury.

The high court judgement says: ‘If the claimant is correct, the defendants are acting unlawfully by according preferential tariff treatment to goods originating in Western Sahara and in doing so are facilitating the exploitation of the resources of that territory contrary to international law.’

Morocco invaded Western Sahara in 1975 and has been illegally occupying the territory ever since – and illegally exporting Sahrawi resources.

In recent years, Morocco hasn’t just had legal problems to do with Western Sahara, it’s also seen a drop in the number of countries willing to import Sahrawi conflict phosphate.

Solidarity activists took action in New Zealand at the end of May to try to add NZ to that list.

Around 40 members of Western Sahara Solidarity Aotearoa blockaded the headquarters of Ballance Agri-nutrients on the outskirts of Tauranga, about 130 miles from Auckland.

Ballance, a major fertiliser company, imports conflict phosphate taken illegally from Western Sahara by Morocco. (See PN 2634 – 2635 for a previous NZ phosphate blockade.)

Indigenous people say that Ballance facilities are also poisoning the water and the air near its headquarters.

Activists chained themselves to the main gate and sat in tripods.

Ballance contractors used their vehicles to knock protesters to the ground.

Eventually, the CEO of Ballance, Mark Wynne, agreed to meet with the ambassador of Western Sahara in return for an end to the blockade.

Britain has another connection to Western Sahara. It turns out that, in 2020, Britain was the top exporter of gas to the territory.

Five of the 11 shipments of liquified butane gas that came into Laayoune port in Western Sahara in 2020 came from the UK, from Immingham in Lincolnshire and Teesside.

Western Sahara Resource Watch says that the gas is ‘fuelling the occupation’, as it is used by Morocco ‘to uphold critical infrastructure and industries for its illegal occupation’ of Western Sahara.

Following protests in their home countries, gas exporters in Norway and Austria announced in April and May that they would not be exporting to Western Sahara again.

Another UK connection: British troops also reportedly took part in African Lion 21, a mainly US – Morocco military exercise (partly in Western Sahara) in mid-June.

XR Six

On 16 July, six XR activists were convicted of highway obstruction at St Albans magistrates court.

They had been part of the 50-strong 14-hour XR blockade of the Newsprinters printworks in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, last September.

The plant prints the Sun, the Times and other right-wing papers.

Five defendants were given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £150 court costs plus a £22 victim surcharge.

The sixth defendant received a £150 fine as well as well as £150 court costs and £34 victim surcharge.

Report the UK

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is collecting thousands of signatures to report the UK to the UN for breaching its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

CND will pass the petition to the president of the next NPT Review Conference (postponed to sometime next year).

By signing and ratifying the NPT, the UK committed itself to ‘pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament’ (Article VI).

Instead, the British government is upgrading its nuclear weapon system, increasing the number of nuclear warheads, and saying there are more situations in which it might use the Bomb. You can sign the CND petition: 020 7700 2393;

Garden censored

It is not acceptable to describe Britain as having a ‘historical and ongoing identity as a colonial nuclear state’.

That’s the view of Tory councillors in Southend. In June, they forced the Metal arts group to remove an installation which contained these words from Gunners Park in Southend.

The rose garden installation, An English Garden, by Australian artist Gabriella Hirst, featured a plaque.

This pointed out that Britain’s first atom bomb was tested in Australia on ‘unceded Indigenous land, causing enduring devastation and contamination’.

It also referred to the recent decisions to develop new nuclear weapons and increase nuclear warhead stockpiles by 40 percent.

Assange 50

A Thames river protest boat ride, a picnic outside parliament, and a cake-cutting outside Belmarsh prison were some of the ways that Don’t Extradite Assange (DEA) and the Julian Assange Defence Committee (JADC) marked the 50th birthday of imprisoned journalist Julian Assange on 3 July.

On 29 June, Labour MPs Richard Burgon, Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn handed in a cross-party letter at Belmarsh prison about the refusal of the authorities to allow MPs an online video meeting with Assange. The letter was signed by 20 MPs from four parties.

Greenham 40

27 August marks the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the ‘Women for Life on Earth’ march from Cardiff that led to the setting up of Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp in Berkshire.

To mark the occasion, Greenham Women Everywhere is organising a walk starting 26 August and a bike ride on 2–3 September.

Along the route, the organisers are promising special commemorative events, performances, workshops and screenings.

On 5 September, there will be a full day of activities on Greenham Common (the base is long gone).

Vaccines for all

Global Justice Now are producing stickers, postcards, leaflets and posters for the People’s Vaccine campaign.

The stickers say: ‘I’ve had my vaccine, the Global South needs one too’. The leaflet says: ‘Free Covid-19 vaccines from Big Pharma monopolies’.

You can use these (free) materials to help spread the word, maybe on a stall: 020 7820 4900;

Ships boycotted

Since the Israeli bombing of Gaza in mid-May, dockworkers have been boycotting Israeli cargo ships.

Italian dockers at the port of Livorno refused to load weapons onto a ship headed for Israel on 15 May.

After that,cargoes seem to have been civilian in nature: in Durban, South Africa, starting 20 May; in Seattle, Washington state, USA, on 2 June; in Oakland, California, USA, on 4 June; and in Prince Rupert, Canada, starting 14 June.

In North America, the ‘Block the Boat’ campaign targeted the Zim shipping line, previously 49 percent owned by the Israeli state.