The following is an article by Kyodo News and appeared on the March 16th issue of Japan Times.


Civic action key to global disarmament

By Maya Kaneko

TOKYO, March 13 Kyodo - A 48-year-old British antinuclear activist proved that direct action by citizens can contribute to global disarmament and even prevent possible mass murder when she was acquitted recently in landmark rulings for vandalizing a nuclear submarine research facility and a British warplane.

''Governments have been saying they will disarm for many decades, but they are not going to do it. Therefore, people have got to start doing it,'' Angela Zelter said in a recent interview with Kyodo News. She is currently visiting Japan for a nationwide lecture tour aimed at raising awareness of nuclear disarmament issues.

Zelter, a member of British antinuclear group Trident Ploughshares, and three other women were charged with using hammers to cause 1.5 million pounds worth of damage to a British Aerospace Hawk jet set to be exported to Indonesia in 1996.

She also stood trial along with two other activists for causing 80,000 pounds worth of damage to a barge on Loch Goil in Scotland used for research related to Britain's Trident nuclear submarine program in 1999.

A court in Liverpool handed down a not-guilty verdict in the Hawk jet case, saying the actions of Zelter and the others were ''just'' as they prevented the jet from being used for possible massacres in East Timor.

Last October, a court in Greenock, Scotland, ruled Zelter and the two others should not be held responsible for the destruction of the barge as they were trying to stop Britain from committing crimes under international law.

The ruling was based on an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice issued in 1996 that nuclear weapons are illegal because they cannot distinguish between civilian and military targets.

Zelter said the Greenock ruling was significant because it showed the law, which was ''traditionally used against people rather than the state,'' helped her and other activists win acquittal.

The activist said she thinks the majority of her compatriots were ''very happy'' to learn about the acquittal of the Ploughshares members as 85% of people in Scotland and more than half in England are against nuclear weapons.

Even though some conservative politicians attacked the activists as ''loony leftists,'' most people, including civilian police, showed understanding toward the group's campaign, Zelter said, as it is based on the principle of safety, nonviolence and accountability.

The campaigners submit their names and information on their activities, except for those related to clandestine missions aimed at inflicting serious damage, to police and authorities in advance, conduct training, and remain at the scene after direct actions, waiting to be arrested, Zelter said.

Asked what drove her to disarmament activities, she cited the shock of learning about nuclear weapons' ''sheer amount of destruction'' and ''deep shame'' about the British government's nuclear policy and arms trade.

While also a fierce campaigner for human rights and environmental issues, Zelter said that among the world's crises, those deriving from nuclear weapons seem ''most irrational and obviously abusive of power.''

''Deploying nuclear weapons and depending on a policy of nuclear deterrence is not just wrong, it is criminal,'' she said, warning that nuclear weapons undermine the moral foundation of a society, leading to deep violence among its people.

Zelter, who obtained testimony from survivors of the 1945 atomic bomb attacks on Nagasaki and Hiroshima during her trial, urged Japanese citizens to support her efforts to make nuclear weapons illegal by testifying at British or international courts on the threat of such weapons.

She emphasized that pressure from foreigners could accelerate the disarmament of Britain, a country ''most easily'' able to abolish its nuclear weapons stockpile among the world's nuclear powers, as authorities ''cannot bury their head in the sand'' by claiming it is purely a British affair.

Disarmament campaigns by Trident Ploughshares involve activists from 13 nations, including Japan, she said.

As for Japan, the only country to have suffered atomic bombings, Zelter hoped it will retain its war-renouncing Constitution and continue to listen to A-bomb victims and learn from its own history.

Zelter also said Japan, the world's No. 2 economic power, should utilize its influence in pushing for nuclear disarmament.

She said the Japanese government is ''hypocritical'' in sheltering under the U.S. nuclear umbrella while imposing economic sanctions on India and Pakistan following their nuclear tests in 1998.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki could tell government leaders not to come to their annual peace memorial ceremonies in August to commemorate the bombings unless they mean what they say, Zelter said.

The activist also stressed that people's strenuous demonstrations and protests will eventually lead to a total elimination of nuclear weapons.

''If people get onto the streets and refuse to do anything until the governments disarm, we could have disarmament very quickly,'' she said, adding that it is important to set up a mechanism by which people are empowered and work together to bring about change.

==Kyodo 2000-03-13 12:09:50