Dave Rolstone’s Defence for Bus action 23rd September 2002

I’m alive, and so are you. If we decide to live, it must be because we have decided that our personal existence has some positive value. I believe that all human life has an innate undisputable value wherever in the world they happen to be born.

You have become a magistrate, and I have become a peace activist. I believe this must be because we have decided that human society has some positive value that is worth working for. When I was in Palestine in April this year being shot at by Israeli snipers, tanks and APC it was because I recognized the humanity of the Civilian population of Nabalus and their right to live a life of human dignity. Social values are rules of conduct, and they can offer hope of a just and better society.

There will always be a problem with crime in any society, it is my belief that the greatest crime our society faces today is a logical crime, and the argument by which it is sustained and made reasonable is one of the most destructive aspects of our present society.

One might think that the threat of nuclear war would be recognised for its barbarism, and forthrightly and immediately condemned. But it is not.

1) On the 20th March 2002 British defence secretary Geoff Hoon told the House of Commons Select Committee on Defence that states like Iraq “can be absolutely confident that in the right conditions we would be willing to use our nuclear weapons.”

2) Then on the 24th March Geoff Hoon appeared on ITV’s Jonathan Dimbleby show and ’insisted that the government “reserved the right” to use nuclear weapons if Britain or British troops were threatened by chemical or biological weapons’

3) Finely, Hoon was asked about his threat in the House of Commons in a debate on the 29th April Hoon said “ultimately and in conditions of extreme self defence, nuclear weapons would have to be used.”

In the House of Commons debate, Diane Abbott MP pressed the Defence Secretary for an explanation of what these “conditions of extreme self-defence” might be. Hoon refuse to be specific. The Defence Secretary confined himself to saying that it was important to point out that the government have nuclear weapons available to them. And that “in certain specific conditions to which I have referred to, we would be prepared to use them”. This deliberate ambiguity is thought by the government to be a useful form of “deterrence”.

The threat to use nuclear weapons violates the non proliferation treaty and negative security assurances, it is agreed that nuclear armed states should not threaten non-nuclear weapon states as the use of such threats will encourage states to try and acquire nuclear weapons. This is why JUDGE WEERAMANTRY in his Preliminary Observations on the Opinion of the international Court said:

“My considered opinion is that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is illegal in any circumstances whatsoever. It violates the fundamental principles of international law, and represents the very negation of the humanitarian concerns which underlie the structure of humanitarian law. It offends conventional law and, in particular, the Geneva Gas Protocol of 1925, and Article 23(a) of the Hague Regulations of 1907. It contradicts the fundamental principle of the dignity and worth of the human person on which all law depends. It endangers the human environment in a manner which threatens the entirety of life on the planet.”

With Britain and the USA now threatening war with Iraq, International Law needs to be headed if we are to abolish war before war abolishes us. You claim that this is a court of law. If you choose law, you must recognise international law, all nations must join together in a common effort to support and enforce the law. Albert Einstein wrote:

“Anybody who really wants to abolish war must resolutely declare himself in favor of his own country’s resigning a portion of its sovereignty in favor of international institutions: he must be ready to make his own country amenable, in case of a dispute, to the award of an international court. He must in the most uncompromising fashion support disarmament all around.”

Iraq has been subjected to inhumane sanctions for the last 12 years on the first of my sanction braking trips to that country in August of 1999. UNICEF brought out its survey of child mortality which showed that 500,000 children under the age of five had died as a result of the sanctions.

When crime and massacres are justified by pragmatism, supposition and philanthropy, judgment is crippled. When such a crime puts on the appearance of innocence in a curious reversal peculiar to our age, it is time for people to start asking themselves questions and to justify their actions. Do we have the right to kill our fellow men or the right to let them be killed? Do we have the right to hold our leaders responsible for their actions? And should we ask them to find ways of avoiding committing murder on such a large scale? I believe we do have these rights and must exercise them.

This is a court of law and one of the organs of our civil society. I believe that it is also bound by international law and I draw your attention to the Genocide Convention. Genocide has been unambiguously defined in international law as one of a number of acts, including killing or causing serious bodily or mental harm with intent to destroy – in whole or in part – a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. Collective punishment is prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. What I saw in Palestine and Iraq is collective punishment, as will be the coming war on Iraq. We are past the point where silence is passive consent – when a crime reaches these proportions. Silence is complicity. So I’ll leave you with a quote from the Nuremberg War Crime Tribunal, of 1950 “Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore [individual citizens] have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring”