Anti-Trident campaigners paint Scottish court

IssueNovember 2010
News by Brian Larkin

Immediately after being fined £500 for blockading Faslane two women painted their judgement on the walls of the Dumbarton court building. Barbara Dowling wrote “This JP court does not uphold international law” on an interior wall while Janet Fenton painted “We want a peace court” over the brass plaque by the entrance. They now may face jury trial for an alleged £3000 worth of damage on vandalism charges.

The painting was an indictment of the Scottish courts’ persistent refusal to hear anti-nuclear weapons campaigners’ defences under international law in hundreds of cases. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in 1996 that “the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law”. But the Scottish High Court ruled in 2001, in reply to the Lord Advocates Reference (LAR), that the ICJ ruling did not mean that Trident was illegal. It said international law did not apply to Trident because the UK was not at war at the time and the UK's policy of “deterrence” did not involve any specific threat to use nuclear weapons.

Obsolete ruling

Janet, Coordinator of the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre, has tried marching, writing to MPs, even organizing a conference on international law at Scottish Parliament. She argued that the High Court ruling was obsolete because “the country is now at war in circumstances directly relevant to its being a nuclear weapons state”. And Trident patrols now clearly constitute an imminent threat: “Defence ministers, including Geoff Hoon (Hansard 2002), have more than once threatened the use of nuclear weapons since the High Court ruling”.

The two Trident Ploughshares activists have repeatedly disrupted the UK’s nuclear weapons. Janet, along with four other Scots is also facing SOCPA charges for entering an open gate at Aldermaston, where facilities are under construction for developing new nuclear warheads, during the Big Blockade in February.

Prior to sentencing, Barbara Dowling told the judge: “Civil disobedience has overturned many laws which are legally not morally right. I will continue to do everything I can, legal or illegal, to right this appalling wrong”.

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