By John LaForge
German and U.S. nuclear weapons resisters continue their quixotic jousting match with the criminal justice system. Emphasis on the word criminal.
After dozens of “go-in” actions against the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons at Germany’s Büchel air base, and following scores of trial court convictions for “trespassing” at the NATO base, twenty individual appeals to Germany’s high-level Constitutional Court have now been rejected without comment. The high court has simply upheld the rulings of the Regional Court in Koblenz finding the resisters guilty. Koblenz judges have repeatedly found that secret arrangements between the U.S. and Germany have legalized the shipment to and deployment of U.S. nuclear bombs at Büchel.
Nuclear abolitionists, including Nukewatch’s John LaForge and many others, have argued that binding U.S. and German treaty law forbids any and all such transfer of nuclear weapons (known as nuclear proliferation), and consequently that nonviolent actions attempting to interfere with such violations are justifiable acts of “crime prevention.”
As of September, a total of six nuclear resisters have filed applications or appeals with the European Court of Human Rights, in Strasbourg, France, arguing that the convictions were in error. The ECHR, made up of 42 judges, one from every state party to the European Convention on Human Rights, has a rigid set of standards to be met to win a hearing, and defendants must first have exhausted all the means of redress in their state and federal courts.
In LaForge’s appeal to the ECHR, filed in May, the court has indicated some interest in the case, but has not yet formally decided to hear it. In June, the court wrote that one signature and one document were missing from the application. “Normally this would mean that your application would be rejected,” the court said. “However, in view of the particular circumstances of the case, you are requested, on an exceptional basis, to complete your file” and supply the needed information by August 7.
After receiving the required materials, the Legal Secretary wrote on October 9, “The court will deal with the case … as soon as the course of business permits.”
In late September, John joined German anti-nuclear bicyclists in a public protest ride between the two high courts. Beginning with a rally at the doors of the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, Germany, sixteen riders spent two days cycling to Strasbourg and the gates of the ECHR, just across the Rhine River border separating Germany and France.
In front of both court complexes, group members spoke of the increasing dangers and legal nihilism of nuclear sharing, and a small troupe performed a theatrical piece called “Wake Up Justice!” in which a sleepy, inattentive “Madame Justice,” portrayed by Lies Welker (pictured outside the Constitutional Court), was woken by the shouts and cries of citizens demanding that she do something about the threats to humanity posed by the nuclear war planners.
By John LaForge
A formal complaint, submitted October 2, 2023 to Italy’s Public Prosecutor’s Office at the Court of Rome, demands a criminal investigation of the stationing of U.S. nuclear weapons on the national territory of Italy. The lawsuit also calls for the pursuit of all Italian persons who may be criminally responsible for the weapons’ importation and deployment. The complaint was signed by representatives of 22 organizations and says that the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons in Italy is certain, even though it has never been officially acknowledged by the government. The open secret of the transfer to Italy of the B61 H-bombs has been confirmed by numerous newspaper reports, scientific journals, leaked NATO documents, and the effective admission by the U.S. government that it has transferred nuclear weapons to Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Turkey. U.S. B61 gravity bombs are reportedly now stationed at Italy’s air force bases at Ghedi and Aviano. The legal complaint recalls that Italy ratified the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) on April 24, 1975, and argues that the treaty’s Articles I and II prohibit the transfer of foreign nuclear weapons to Italy. The complaint also charges that the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons in Italian territory violates Italian federal law related to weapons and import licenses. — For a copy of the lawsuit, email us at email@example.com.
By John LaForge
The U.S. Air Force has secured $50 million for a project that could pave the way for U.S. nuclear weapons to return to British soil at the UK airbase RAF Lakenheath for the first time in more than 16 years. The Federation of American Scientists previously reported that in the 2023 U.S. military budget, Britain was added to the list of countries where construction is under way on “special weapons” sites. The FAS estimates there are about 100 B61 gravity bombs stationed in five NATO countries. They were withdrawn from the UK in 2007 after 53 years. The B61s were once declared obsolete by the U.S. military, but instead of being retired, they have been remodeled to improve their “accuracy.” The new B61-model-12s could arrive in Europe this year. New Lockheed-Martin F-35 jet fighters have been given certification to carry the new U.S. hydrogen bombs, and the U.S. 495th Fighter Squadron, stationed at Lakenheath, became the first unit in Europe to receive the nuclear weapons-capable jets, according to The Guardian.
— The Guardian, Aug 29, 2023; Dutch Aviation Society online, Dec. 16, 2021
By John LaForge
A growing number of international organizations and publications have formally declared that the transfer of nuclear weapons between governments that are party to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is a violation of the treaty. Most recently, the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the International Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, and three academics writing in the influential Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have called for ending the practice and the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe. Excerpts from the four declarations follow.
The New York City-based Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy published “Three Issues Confronting the Non-Proliferation/Disarmament Regime: Nuclear Threats, Security Assurances, and Nuclear Sharing,” July 25, 2023:
“The incompatibility of nuclear sharing with the NPT is based on a straightforward application of NPT Articles I and II. Article I requires NPT nuclear-armed states ‘not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons … or control over such weapons directly, or indirectly.’ It further requires the nuclear-armed states ‘not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to … acquire nuclear weapons … or control over such weapons.’ … Article II imposes the corollary obligation on NPT non-nuclear weapon states not to be the recipient of any such transfer or assistance. …
“In no case should the argument that the United States put forward more than five decades ago in support of its interpretation of Articles I and II be accepted or promulgated. According to that argument, nuclear sharing does not ‘involve any transfer of nuclear weapons or control over them unless and until a decision were made to go to war, at which time the treaty would no longer be controlling.’ The contention that the NPT would not be legally binding in time of war, qualified as ‘general war’ in testimony before the Senate, is legally wrong, unworkable, and dangerously ‘destabilizing,’ as explained in non-governmental papers prepared over two decades ago in connection with the question of whether NATO nuclear sharing should be terminated. As noted earlier, the contention was implicitly rebuked by the 2000 NPT Final Document reaffirmation that ‘strict observance’ of treaty provisions is ‘central’ to ‘preventing, under any circumstances, the further proliferation of nuclear weapons.’
“NPT states parties should strongly express opposition to a Russia-Belarus nuclear sharing arrangement on both policy and legal grounds. They should also call for the termination of NATO nuclear sharing. Ending NATO nuclear sharing would remove a model and rationale for the establishment of such arrangements elsewhere.”
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), on Aug. 2, 2023 submitted a statement to the United Nations Preparatory Committee for the 2026 NPT Review Conference:
“Our statement will focus on the practice commonly known as ‘nuclear sharing.’
“ICAN is deeply concerned that a small but growing number of NPT states parties are undermining the NPT by engaging in this dangerous practice.
“We condemn all such deployments, and call on those NPT states parties that are genuinely committed to nuclear disarmament — which is the vast majority — to do the same. Such deployments must be brought to an immediate end. “This practice runs counter to the fundamental tenets of the treaty and is a threat to the entire regime.
“It is in the interests of all NPT states parties that this practice does not spread further. And to guarantee that, it must be brought to an end.”
International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms Germany, submission to the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review, April 5, 2023
“The maintenance of the nuclear deterrence policy and the operational deployment of nuclear weapons show the willingness to use these weapons. … [German Minister of Defense Annegret Kamp-Karrenbauer] stated that Germany must be prepared to use its deployed nuclear weapons against Russia in the tense international conflict situation. …
“Although there are persuasive arguments to describe this policy as a violation of the NPT, it can by no means be considered as in compliance with it. Even if Germany has no direct control over the nuclear weapons stationed in Germany, the training, the readiness and the overall nuclear sharing policy are a preparation to directly violate the NPT. So, Germany (and all nuclear sharing states) are at least not interpreting and performing the NPT in good faith according to its object and purpose, as required by Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 1969.”
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July 28, 2023, “Bombs Away: Confronting the deployment of nuclear weapons in non- nuclear weapon countries,” by Moritz Kütt, Pavel Podvig, Zia Mian:
“The NPT prohibits both the acquisition of nuclear weapons by non-weapon states and the transfer of nuclear weapons to such countries by the five nuclear weapon states who are parties (Russia, China, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France).
“[D]uring the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference … Mexico and then other non-weapon states questioned the continuing practice of NATO nuclear sharing after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“Russia declared ‘U.S. nuclear weapons are still on the territory of non-nuclear allied states.… We have repeatedly called for the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons to national territory, the elimination of the infrastructure for their deployment in Europe, and the cessation of NATO “joint nuclear missions.”’
“In its 2022 NPT Review Conference statement, China’s representative stated that ‘nuclear sharing arrangements run counter to the provisions of the NPT.’ China emphasized that the United States ‘should withdraw all its nuclear weapons from Europe and refrain from deploying nuclear weapons in any other region.’
“There are of course things nuclear weapon states could do. The five NPT nuclear weapon states could agree to a commitment on no-foreign-deployments as an effective measure relating to nuclear disarmament under their NPT Article VI obligations. This would require removing nuclear weapons in the European NATO countries and in Belarus, and prevent future hosting arrangements by them.”
-New York City-based Lawyers Committee
-ICAN August 2 statement
–Int’l Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms Germany
joined the debate March 29 noting in a press release, “Nuclear sharing violates the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the human right to life.”
–Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists