INLAP works to foster conscious appreciation of the shared norms which underlie the laws and treaties concerning law and peace.


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In a historic verdict, after a brilliantly-argued seven-day trial where their case was grounded upon international law, the four ‘ploughshares' women Andrea Needham, Lotta Kronlid, Joanna Wilson and Angela Zelter were cleared of charges of having caused two million pounds worth of damage to a British Aerospace Hawk jet (Report in Daily Telegraph, August 1, as well as front page of the Guardian). The media generally obfuscated the issue as ‘conscience before the law', however to quote KM: ‘the Seeds of Hope women were quite clear... that they weren't "breaking the law for a higher end" but rather fulfilling their legal duty/availing themselves of their legal right to stop crime. It is precisely because they were so clear on this... framing their action in legal as well as moral terms, that the women were allowed to present the jury with evidence of the real crime taking place'. He added that ‘section 3 of the Criminal Law Act belongs to us all: "A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime..."'


The Ploughshares women argued that International law was binding on all states and was valid in Liverpool Crown Court; that Indonesia is a systematic and persistent violator of international law and uses BAe Hawks to carry out these violations, including: violations of East Timor's right of self-determination, the illegal occupation of East Timor, violations of the Nuremburg Principles including crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity; human rights violations and the use of torture; and violations of the Hague conventions and the 4th Geneva Convention. It was further argued that the British government and British companies are complicit in these crimes in that they knowingly ‘sell Hawk aircraft and other weapons and torture equipment' (A.Z.) and hence are in breach of international laws themselves. A.Z. used to much effect the Zyklon B case where two German industrialists were found guilty of war crimes during the Nuremburg tribunal, having provided gas to exterminate people in the concentration camps.

The women argued at Liverpool that it was every citizen's right and duty to try to uphold international laws and prevent war crimes, and that the Ploughshares act of disarmament did in fact prevent one plane from being used to commit war crimes. The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal was referred to as having stated that ‘anyone with knowledge of illegal activity and an opportunity to do something about it, is a potential criminal under international law unless the person takes measures to prevent the commission of crimes.' The women's defence centred around the failure of the British democratic political and judicial system to uphold international law: ‘We, as global citizens, took responsibilty for this failure.... We disabled a Hawk jet and reclaimed international law for ordinary children, women and men, for global citizens rather than global corporations.'

The following letter signed by the four women appeared in the Daily Express (6 August): ‘In his piece, Martyrs who Forego the Pain of Martyrdom, Peter Hitchens says that, in our action of disarming the Hawk warplane destined for Indonesia, we have ‘seriously damaged the law.' In fact, we presented a legal defence - that of using reasonable force to prevent crime. The judge allowed this defence to be put to the jury and the jury, having studied the evidence, accepted it. We were acquitted. The jury found that the action we took to prevent the Hawk killing people in East Timor was justified in law.

The law is being broken, but not by us. The law against genocide is being broken by British Aerospace in selling Hawks to Indonesia's brutal dictatorship. We have been held accountable by the courts for our actions, but British Aerospace and the British Government are flouting the law with impunity. We took full responsibility for our actions, but British aerospace and the Government are ignoring their responsibilities by selling weapons which they know will be used to kill civilians in an illegally occupied country.

Along with thousands of other people, we had tried every conceivable means to stop this illegal deal. The campaign was ignored and the planes were about to leave for Indonesia when we took our action. Would it have been more responsible passively to have watched the planes leave for bombing raids in East Timor? We have been called vandals and it has been suggested that this verdict gives a green light to random destruction of property. Vandalism is purposeless property destruction. This is certainly not something we would advocate. Our action was a creative and peaceful response to a serious crime. It was carried out because of compassion and with the sole purpose of saving lives.'

As regards why the many attempts to stop the Hawk sales have failed to-date, in A.Z.'s experience persons had difficulty in distinguishing between what was legal and what was official: ‘The fact that an export license has been issued by the Department of Trade and Industry, even though the UN, EU and British regulations on arms controls have been breached, has led to an assumption of legality.' In October the women intend to lay informations against BAe, to try and prevent the remaining Hawks from being exported, and want as many co-informants as possible, preferably several thousand. Eminent persons are needed for this, can you help?. There is no cost or legal risk: to be a co-informant one signs a document that specifies the alleged offense and sets out information on the crimes concerning which the court is being asked to start proceedings. Please apply if interested, with any checques & donations to ‘Seeds of Hope Private Prosecution', Angie Zelter, c/o 48 Bethel Street, Norwich, Norfolk NR2 1NR.

Documents are available from Amnesty International on Indonesia & East Timor, eg ‘Twenty years of violations', Amnesty's 1995 statement to the UN.

Institute for Law and Peace.  Company No. 2526884. Charity No. 1000444. This page   last updated 29 August 2004.