Trident Ploughshares
( 2001 , UK )

...for providing a practical model of principled, transparent and non-violent direct action dedicated to ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

Trident Ploughshares aims to empower ordinary citizens to peacefully tear down the machinery of violence and to build up respect for fundamental human rights.


Trident Ploughshares (TP) is a non-violent, direct campaign aiming at disarming the UK Trident nuclear weapons system. It starts from the premise that this system is not only immoral, but also illegal. Officially founded in 1998, it requested not just the immediate removal of British Trident submarines, but also that Britain and its NATO allies worked together to free Europe from all the tactical nuclear weapons on its territory.

Contact

TRIDENT PLOUGHSHARES
c/o Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre
5 Upper Bow
Edinburgh EH1 2JN
UK

 

http://www.tridentploughshares.org/

Biography

The UK has four nuclear submarines (as of 2011), each carrying up to 16 missiles, each with 3 nuclear bombs; that is 48 warheads, each of which can be sent to a different target. Each warhead has an explosive power of up to 100 kilotons, the equivalent of 100,000 tons of conventional high explosive. This is 8 times the power of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. The submarines are based at Faslane, near Glasgow, in Scotland and there is one Trident submarine on patrol at all times.

Trident Ploughshares (TP) is a campaign to disarm the UK Trident nuclear weapons system in a non-violent, open, peaceful and fully accountable manner. It began in 1997 when peace activist Angie Zelter wrote to 100 people in 15 countries, inviting them to participate. In 2011, TP had 103 signed up active members organised into small affinity groups. In addition, there are many supporters who get involved with direct action, who help with legal support, care for those arrested or in prison, work with press relations, and so on.

TP was officially launched in 1998, shortly after its representatives had written an open letter to the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, setting out their “nine requests” for the controlled disarmament of British nuclear forces. These requests include …

The UK has four nuclear submarines (as of 2011), each carrying up to 16 missiles, each with 3 nuclear bombs; that is 48 warheads, each of which can be sent to a different target. Each warhead has an explosive power of up to 100 kilotons, the equivalent of 100,000 tons of conventional high explosive. This is 8 times the power of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. The submarines are based at Faslane, near Glasgow, in Scotland and there is one Trident submarine on patrol at all times.

Trident Ploughshares (TP) is a campaign to disarm the UK Trident nuclear weapons system in a non-violent, open, peaceful and fully accountable manner. It began in 1997 when peace activist Angie Zelter wrote to 100 people in 15 countries, inviting them to participate. In 2011, TP had 103 signed up active members organised into small affinity groups. In addition, there are many supporters who get involved with direct action, who help with legal support, care for those arrested or in prison, work with press relations, and so on.

TP was officially launched in 1998, shortly after its representatives had written an open letter to the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, setting out their “nine requests” for the controlled disarmament of British nuclear forces. These requests included:

  • that the British Trident submarine system be immediately taken off 24-hour patrols;
  • that all British nuclear warheads be removed from their delivery systems and stored separately;
  • that Britain should work with its NATO allies for the withdrawal of all tactical nuclear weapons from Europe;
  • that the government should commit itself to a timetable for the decommissioning of British nuclear weapons as fast as is feasible and safe, with a target date for completion of 2010 at the latest.

The Prime Minister was told that if a substantial portion of these requests were met, TP would stop its disarmament actions. Otherwise, it would feel bound to pursue its non-violent direct action.

The campaign held its first mass action in August 1998 and at varying times since then. In February 1999, two women campaigners managed to board a nuclear submarine and caused damage to its testing equipment. Then in June 1999, three women campaigners succeeded in putting a Trident-related research laboratory out of action. By 2009, TP actions had led to over 2240 arrests, 520 trials and 2197 days in prison.

An important argument of TP is that the UK is not only acting immorally in its policy on nuclear weapons, but also illegally. The grounds for the latter opinion are:

  • The Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of July 8th, 1996 “that confirmed the general illegality of modern weapons and concluded that States are under an obligation to bring to a conclusion negotiations on nuclear disarmament in all its aspects”.
  • The failure of the British Government to implement Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which promised nuclear disarmament by the nuclear powers.

In a number of cases these arguments have been accepted by British judges and juries. In one case the judge stated: “I have to conclude that the [defendants] were justified in thinking that Great Britain in the use of Trident … could be construed as a threat and as such is an infringement of international and customary law… I have heard nothing which would make it seem to me that the accused acted with criminal intent.”

More recently Angie Zelter and many Trident Ploughshares activists organised and took part in Faslane 365 which was a whole year of blockades at Faslane and which helped in the process of getting an anti-nuclear government elected in the Scottish Parliament.

There is an ongoing process of providing the tool of international law to help the Scottish Government rid itself of nuclear weapons in the face of UK intransigence. The direct action of Trident Ploughshares has mainly shifted to England with actions at Aldermaston (the bomb making factory in Berkshire) to try to stop the renewing and modernisation of Trident which would be in breach of Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

 
 

FAQ about Trident Ploughshares

Questions asked in 2005, answered by Angie Zelter

1. How do you reconcile your work for TP and your responsibility for your family?

Responsibility for my family includes working for global peace and justice and showing (giving) an example of global citizenship. Thus I try to keep a balance between inner and outer work, close family time and “global/local” work. The two are intermingled and deeply connected. Deep personal family connections are important but are a part of my deep connection to the human family as a whole.

2. How do you ensure the safety and the transparency of your actions?

I try never to engage in any physical activity that I do not know the consequences of. I put myself imaginatively to the position of the soldiers, security guards, police or authorities or treat them like my brothers, sisters, children – as I would like to be treated, politely and with respect and love. I make sure the “authorities” are aware of who I am and what I have done. I do not hide after the action but bear responsibility for the action.

3. Imagine you would succeed in disarming the UK’s nuclear weapons programme. Would like to live in a world with North Korea being the only country to own nuclear weapons?

I would work on disarming other nuclear, biological, chemical and conventional weapon systems. But I need to take prime responsibility for my own nation’s nuclear weapons first.

4. Aren’t you encouraging lawlessness by breaking the law?

Prevention of international war crimes is not a crime and is not breaking the law even though the courts and judicial systems are ruling otherwise. It is the police and justice system encouraging lawlessness by threaten mass destruction.

5. You have not stopped the UK having nuclear weapons – isn’t your work a waste of time?

It is never a waste of time to protest against great evil. Even standing alone and saying no is better than nothing. We must keep alive our hope and strength and make it possible for more people to join in the work of people’s disarmament.

6. What effect has the RLA had on your work?

It has given us international recognition; the money has helped us organise better.

The contact between laureates is beginning to become useful.

Publications and Speeches by Angie Zelter

  • World in Chains. Ed. by Angie Zelter. Luath Press, June 2014.
  • Faslane 365: A year of anti-nuclear blockades. Luath Press, Edinburgh, 2008. Read Angie Zelter’s introduction (pdf).
  • War, Peace and Terrorism and the Public Response. Speech at a public meeting, November 4, 2003. Download (pdf) Civil Society and Global Responsibility: The Arms Trade and East Timor. International Relations, Volume 18 (1) 2004. Download (pdf) Spring in the countryside. 1st of the Occasional Reports from Angie Zelter in the West Bank. March 22, 2004. Download (pdf)

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