Monday, 19 October 2009

Five in court for stopping nuclear proliferation at Aldermaston while Obama gets Nobel peace prize for calling for disarmament

Trial at Reading Magistrates’ Court, Berkshire on Wednesday, 21st October and Thursday 22nd October 2009

While Barack Obama is being congratulated for receiving the Nobel peace prize, partly for his commitment to ‘a world without nuclear weapons’ (1), five people who protested at the gates of Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston, where the renewal of Britain’s nuclear weapons is being planned, will be on trial for exactly the same commitment.

Renate Zauner from Switzerland, Barbara Dowling and Jean Oliver from Scotland, and Emma Sangster and David Polden from London will be on trial at Reading Magistrates’ Court on October 21st and 22nd.

On 27 October 2008, the five defendants lay down at one of the entrances to AWE Aldermaston, successfully preventing workers and contractors driving into the base, where Britain's nuclear warheads are developed and maintained. It took the police more than an hour to remove and arrest the blockaders.. (2)

The defendants believe that the ongoing activities at, and expansion of, AWE Aldermaston and nearby AWE Burghfield, together with the ongoing deployment and planned renewal of Britain’s submarine-launched Trident nuclear missile system, contravene Britain’s obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. (3) They also believe that Britain’s Trident nuclear missile system violates the 1996 landmark ruling of the International Court of Justice regarding the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, which could find no lawful use for these weapons of mass destruction. (4) They further argue against the massive cost of replacing and maintaining Trident, particularly in the current economic climate.

On 9 September this year, during the parliamentary recess, Quentin Davies, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence, quietly announced that an extra £1 billion per year of taxpayers’ money would be given to AWE Aldermaston. (5) The defendants have submitted to the court a report by expert Dr. Nick Ritchie, from the University of Bradford, to underpin their claims. On 24 September 2009, President Obama chaired an historic meeting of the UN Security Council which affirmed its commitment to the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and established a broad framework for reducing global nuclear dangers. The Security Council passed a new UN resolution strenghtening the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. (6)

Commenting before the trial, Renate Zauner said, “My grandfather was mayor of his hamlet during the Second World War. He never broke a single national law. At the end of the war, six million people had died in the Holocaust. He might not have realised the consequences of his actions at the time, but I do: if I simply watch while crimes against humanity and war crimes are being prepared at Aldermaston and don’t act, then I am co-responsible for the preparation of these crimes and for the possible deaths of millions of people.”

Emma Sangster added, “A poll taken in July this year showed that the majority of people in Britain want all of this country’s nuclear weapons scrapped, rather than see Trident be replaced. Despite all the concern about nuclear proliferation and talk of a nuclear-free world, this Government is developing a new generation of nuclear weapons. I believe we all must do what we can to stop this process.” (7)


For further information see: and


1. The White House Fact Sheet on the United Nations Security Council Summit on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Nuclear Disarmament UNSC Resolution 1887, September 24, 2009.

2. On 27 October 2008, three to four hundred campaigners joined the Big Blockade at AWE Aldermaston, organised by Trident Ploughshares and supported by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp(aign) and Block the Builders. Of the dozens of people who peacefully blockaded access to the base on that day, thirty-three were arrested. Other blockaders were not arrested, despite some remaining in position for up to five hours.

3. Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, which has been ratified by Great Britain, stipulates: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes 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, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

4. See

5. See

6. Security Council calls for world free of nuclear weapons during historic summit, 24 September 2009.


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