Trident Ploughshares, 16. november 2000:

Maytime Disarmer Challenges High Court to Declare Trident Illegal

At the continuing hearing in the High Court in Edinburgh of the Lord Advocate's Reference, which is reviewing the trial of the Trident Three, Angie Zelter, in her second submission to the court, has issued a strong challenge to the bench to put an end to "uncomfortable fudging" and give their ruling that Trident is illegal.

Angie, surrounded by QCs and Advocates, was one of the three women who took action against the Trident barge Maytime and is now representing herself in the highest court in the land. Referring to the claim that a Trident attack could be justified as the use of reasonable force against an aggressor, she pointed out that a nuclear response was not at all like hitting a bully back on the nose. A more reasonable analogy would be standing prepared at any minute to burn down the bully's home, thus murdering the bully's family and endangering the whole neighbourhood.

In order to demonstrate the imminent danger posed by nuclear deployment she quoted extensively from a speech by General Lee Butler, former Commander in Chief of the US Strategic Command. Butler was convinced that, "We escaped the Cold War without a nuclear holocaust by some combination of skill, luck and divine intervention, . ." and he pointed out that the US nuclear forces were still on hair-trigger alert. Responding to the claim that justifying the intervention of ordinary citizens would lead to anarchy she suggested that, " . far from being anarchic, it is the mark of a civilised country that its members are prepared to assist in the maintenance of good order."

She poured scorn on the concept that the practice of the nuclear states in deploying nuclear weapons weakened the case against them in international law. It that were true, the law could protect no-one from violence. Quoting at length from the ICJ Dissenting Opinion of Judge Weeramantry she showed that threat was the very essence of nuclear deterrence. She said that the ability of the court to examine the core questions properly had been seriously hindered by the failure to allow the evidence that had been presented at Greenock. That evidence had proved that the women's action had been capable of preventing crime.

In conclusion, she asked the court to make a number of statements relating to the applicability of humanitarian law to Scotland, to the right of ordinary citizens to act to uphold the law and the responsibility of members of the armed forces to obey international law re Trident.

The judges followed her submission attentively and did not interrupt. When she finished people in the public gallery stood up in salute. "She was brilliant!" said fellow Maytime disarmer Ulla Roder.

Earlier, the Crown attempted to "rubbish" Sheriff Margaret Gimblett's conduct of the Greenock case and the quality and relevance of the defence expert witnesses. QC Duncan Menzies claimed that Professor Francis Boyle and Professor Paul Rogers, expert witnesses at Greenock, had not brought any valid evidence to the court, but had relied on hearsay and press reports for their assertions. He said that Sheriff Gimblett should not have admitted them and should have left the verdict with the jury.

Menzies gave what he claimed was a hypothetical example of the legal use of Trident. If a Chinese ship armed with nuclear weapons was sailing towards New Zealand with a declared intent to fire, an ally of New Zealand could fire a nuclear weapon at the ship and this could be legal, since no innocent civilians were involved.

When the QC claimed that the existence of the Non Proliferation Treaty implied some acceptance of the legality of nuclear weapons Lord Prosser rejoined that the existence of negotiations to de-commission IRA weapons bore no implication that these weapons were legal.

The hearing is expected to conclude tomorrow with the judgement due in some weeks time.

Angie's submission is on the TP website at