Get in SHAPE
International citizens weapon inspection team visits SHAPE
Today, 25th October 2003, hundreds of citizens from across Belgium as well as Britain, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy carried out an inspection of SHAPE, the NATO military headquarters in Mons, Belgium. The inspection was organised by Forum for Peace Action, For Mother Earth and Bomspotting. Early this morning, a group of 12 citizen inspectors entered the military base of SHAPE, in a nonviolent manner, and made their way towards the main building. After spending half an hour inside the base, searching for evidence of the presence of US nuclear weapons in Belgium and Europe, and the plans to use them, they were arrested.
A massive show of force from the Belgian police was necessary to protect the illegal nuclear weapon policy of NATO and the Belgian government. Hundreds of inspectors were arrested before they could begin their inspection, with some participants being arrested as they left their bus. Others were surrounded by police and arrested. In some cases, people living in the neighbourhood of SHAPE were willing to help the inspectors reach their goal.
Members of the Belgian parliament P. Vankrunkelsven (VLD), Els Van Weert (Spirit), Stijn Bex (Spirit) and Jan Rogiers (Spirit) were arrested in a heavy handed way, while asking permission to speak to those responsible within the base. P. Vankrunkelsven was taken to hospital with a broken rib. The action also recieved the support of Ecolo member of parliament Zoe Genot.
55 inspectors were able to enter the SHAPE and to start their inspection. About 500 people got arrested.
Nuclear weapons are not only dangerous and immoral weapons of mass destruction, they are also illegal. The advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, issued on 8th July 1996 states that the use and threat of nuclear weapons is illegal. In Belgium there are nuclear weapons stationed at the military base of Kleine Brogel. In SHAPE, the military headquarters of NATO, plans are made for the use of these weapons. This is a gross violation of international law. The Belgian government is guilty of the preparation of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Bomspotting ‘Get in SHAPE!’: we act to prevent a crime
Judgements of the International Court of Justice must be respected. Despite numerous parliamentary questions, the Belgian government refuses to comply with international law. Thousands of complaints against the preparation of crimes against humanity have been systematically ignored by the legal system. The Belgian government refuses to allow parliamentary debate and the legal system refuses to act.
As citizens, we have the duty to act if our government is breaking the law. The citizen inspectors take on this responsibility. The Belgian government is driving through a red light. We have to shout STOP!
Today we inspect SHAPE, in an analogy with the UN weapon inspectors in Iraq, to discover the plans for the use of weapons of mass destruction, and to try to end this illegal activity. Hundreds of citizen inspectors from the whole of Belgium and across Europe will try to get into the headquarters. They will question the personnel, and look for evidence of the plans to use nuclear weapons. If the government doesn’t act, if the legal system stays deaf, we must do it ourselves. Nonviolently, of course.
From Kleine Brogel to Mons
Five years ago, very few people knew that there were US nuclear weapons at Kleine Brogel. Now most Flemish people know, and the opposition grows. What started as a campaign by a small group of people has grown over the past five years into a mass campaign of civil disobedience. The campaign shows the power of nonviolent direct action to change the opinion of the government. Five years of nonviolent direct action have put the nuclear weapons in Kleine Brogel, and the NATO nuclear strategy on the public and political agenda. But the Belgian government and the legal system refuse to act. That’s why we take a new route.
The mass actions of civil disobedience will not take place at Kleine Brogel any more. We take the mass actions to another important part of NATO nuclear strategy: the military headquarters of NATO in Mons. In Mons, the decisions are taken about the use of nuclear weapons at Kleine Brogel and other US nuclear weapons in Europe. In Mons we can directly reach the decision making of NATO.
Nuclear Weapons, not only a political problem, but also legal.
The deployment of nuclear weapons in Kleine Brogel, and the plans for their use, are preparations for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the use or threat of nuclear weapons, made on 8th July 1996 identifies the fundamental rules of humanitarian law which apply to nuclear weapons. The first rule is that weapons which cannot distinguish between civilians and soldiers must never be used. The second rule states that it is prohibited to cause unnecessary suffering to combatants. Belgian criminal law also identifies the preparation of crimes as an offence, including ‘having an object which is intended to be used for a crime, or which makes committing the crime easier’
As such, Belgian defence policy is criminal. The discussion about nuclear weapons is not only political, it is also legal.
25th October 1983 – 25th October 2003: STOP nuclear weapons
Exactly 20 years ago, the largest demonstration in Belgian history took place: on 25th October 1983 500,000 people protested against the deployment of nuclear weapons in Belgium. The Belgian government ignored the will of the people, and it is continuing to do so. In the current government coalition agreement it is stated that NATO policy must be based on a reduction in the number of nuclear weapons: “NATO can contribute by not deploying nuclear weapons in new NATO-states and by reducing the nuclear weapon arsenal further in the existing NATO-states; the government will plead inside NATO for more transparency about nuclear strategy”. In response to a question from Forum for Peace Action about how the Belgian government would practically implement this paragraph, Defence Minister Flahaut responded that this would be done as soon as there was an opportune moment to launch the discussion, but that they could not be sure that this would happen during this parliament. The current discussion within NATO over a possible 50% reduction in the number of US nuclear weapons in Europe seems to be the perfect opportunity to raise the possibility of the complete withdrawal of these weapons. In other words, the current government intends to ignore both the will of the people, and international law.
If the government does not dare to take action, and ignores the will of the people, we must take action ourselves!
We are trying to nonviolently stop a crime from being committed, so that the Belgian government no longer breaks international law.
For more information: Bomspotting website
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