Trident Illegal, Claims QC

12th October 2000

Judge Refers to “Forked Tongues” of Politicians

Gerry Moynihan QC, amicus curiae with the role of providing support to Angie Zelter, who is representing herself, today continued his submission to the High Court at the hearing of the Lord Advocate’s Reference which is reviewing the trial and acquittal of the ’Trident Three’ in Greenock last year.
Presiding judge Lord Prosser, responding to Moynihan’s argument from the 1996 Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of nuclear weapons, suggested that it would be more helpful to focus on the reasoning of the international judges rather than on the actual finding, since the latter was not easy to interpret.

Moynihan said that he was presenting a submission based on the illegality of Trident and was holding in reserve his stance that the entire Reference was incompetent on the basis of the European Convention on Human Rights. Referring to the evidence given by expert witnesses at Greenock he pointed out that Trident was a mass and indiscriminate weapon; that its most likely targets were cities such as Moscow; that it was an offensive and first strike weapon; that it had other purposes than that of ensuring the survival of Britain, it could be used to deal with “rogue states”; that it had been threatened, for example during the Gulf war.

Lord Prosser questioned the validity of the expert testimony at Greenock. Referring to the testimony of Professor Paul Rogers he suggested we could not rely, as Rogers had seemed to, on what we could read in the papers or on the “forked tongue” of politicians.

Moynihan’s view was that the only reason the ICJ judges did not come out with a blanket ban on nuclear weapons was that some of them felt that a legal use of a small yield weapon against a ship at sea or an isolated military objective in a desert was a possibility. This reservation did not, of course, apply to Trident, which was clearly illegal.

A Trident Ploughshares spokesperson said:

“It would be much more satisfactory if the Court was open to calling for expert testimony to help it on matters of fact relating to Trident. It is wholly unfair of Lord Prosser to attempt to undermine expert testimony at second hand. Why not bring Paul Rogers and the others to the Court?”

Meanwhile it has been agreed that a proper examination of the issues before the court will take longer than the five days originally allocated. At the end of tomorrow’s session the Court will adjourn to a date as yet undecided.