June 2013 E-News

While the northern summer is often a slow time in the field of multilateral disarmament and arms control, it has gotten off to a busy start this year. With events on nuclear disarmament, killer robots, and explosive weapons, as well as the opening for signature of the Arms Trade Treaty, Reaching Critical Will has been busy providing information. Now it’s almost time for Nuclear Abolition Week, during which we will be joining others from around the world to highlight the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and call for treaty banning these weapons once and for all.

In peace,
Ray Acheson, RCW Director

Growing momentum to prevent killer robots

killerbots-logo-fullOn 30 May 2013 the Human Rights Council hosted an interactive dialogue about the report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on autonomous weapon systems. The report focuses on the multiple moral, ethical, legal, policy, technical, and other concerns such weapons raise, from the perspective of the basic human rights of life and dignity. The report’s author, Chistoph Heyns, argued that “war without reflection is mechanical slaughter”. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, of which WILPF is a member, agrees with this position and is calling for a ban on the development of fully autonomous weapon systems. WILPF delivered a statement on behalf of the Campaign at the Human Rights Council debate, urging “all states to endorse and commit to implement the report’s recommendations, including an immediate moratorium.”

Read more from WILPF >>
Read more from the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots >>

Open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament

In May, an “open-ended working group” tasked with “taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons” began its work in Geneva. This new forum was created through the adoption of UN General Assembly resolution A/RES/67/56 and is a clear signal that the international community is running out of patience with the existing deadlocked machinery. The working group began by taking stock of existing commitments and proposals and discussing generally how to take forward nuclear disarmament negotiations. After this stage of initial assessment, it will hopefully spend the remainder of its time on developing concrete proposals to commence negotiations.


Explosive weapons and protection of civilians

INEWFrom 23 to 24 May in Oslo, Norway, states, international organizations, and civil society met to discuss “Reclaiming Protection of Civilians under International Humanitarian Law”. Participants strongly highlighted the impact of explosive weapons in populated areas on civilians. The Co-Chairs’ summary (pdf) of the meeting highlighted that “the use of explosive force in military operations in densely populated areas has devastating humanitarian consequences for civilians. In particular, the use of explosive weapons with a wide area effect should be avoided.” In advance of the meeting, the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), of which WILPF is a member, circulated an advocacy sheet (pdf) on the problem of explosive weapons in populated areas. During the first session of the conference, Richard Moyes of Article 36 gave a presentation (pdf) on behalf of INEW.


ATT signing ceremony

On 3 June 2013, states gathered for a signing ceremony for the Arms Trade Treaty. 67 countries signed the treaty on 3 June while others indicated their intention to sign in the near future. The treaty requires 50 states to ratify before it enters into force.

Nuclear Abolition Week

Nuclear Abolition Week will be on from 6–13 July 2013. This global week of action is organised by ICAN and aims to raise awareness of the unacceptable harm caused by nuclear weapons, and the urgent need for a ban treaty. Participation in Nuclear Abolition Week is open to anyone. Please check out the ICAN Campaigners’ Kit (pdf) for inspiration, and start planning an action for the week.

ican-shareyourshadowNuclear Abolition Week 2013 will also witness the launch of ICAN’s new public outreach initiative, Share Your Shadow. A nuclear bomb explosion vaporises everything in its path in a matter of moments. Such an explosion sometimes also creates permanent memories of those killed. These nuclear shadows, still visible in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, are symbols of the devastating effects of nuclear detonations. To show solidarity with victims of nuclear detonations, ICAN encourages you to take a picture of your own shadow and share it with your friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter, and through other channels during Nuclear Abolition Week.

Upcoming Events

Conference on Disarmament 2013, Part Two
13 May–28 June 2013 | Geneva, Switzerland

UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, 60th Session
26–28 June 2013 | Geneva, Switzerland

Open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament
27 May–28 June 2013 | Geneva, Switzerland

High North and International Security Conference
27–29 June 2013 | Kiruna, Sweden

International Conference on Nuclear Security: Enhancing Global Efforts
1–5 July 2013 | Vienna, Austria

Nuclear Abolition Week
6–13 July 2013 | Global

Featured News

Former Dutch prime ministers confirm US nuclear bombs

Ruud Lubbers and Dries van Agt, prime ministers from 1982–1994 and 1977–1982, respectively, confirmed that 22 B-61 US nuclear weapons are stored at Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands. Both expressed surprise the weapons are still there, describing them as “silly” and “crazy”.

Switzerland declares investment in nuclear weapons production to be illegal

The Swiss Federal Council recently responded to an interpellation submitted by Evi Alleman of the Swiss Social Democratic Party who, referring to ICAN’s report Don’t Bank on the Bomb, demanded clarifications on whether investing in nuclear weapons is illegal according to Swiss law. The interpretation of the law provided by the Swiss Federal Council was unambiguous in declaring that the financing of nuclear weapon producers is prohibited by the Swiss Federal Act on War Material, enacted in February 2013.

New Zealand Superannuation Fund excludes nuclear base operators
The New Zealand Superannuation Fund has excluded a group of companies from its $22 billion investment portfolio because of their work with nuclear weapons.

Complaints rise among US nuclear missile crews

Nuclear missile controllers are reportedly complaining of a wide array of morale-sapping pressures, including working under “poor leadership” and being stuck in “dead-end careers” in nuclear weapons.

Hans Blix urges Britain to relinquish Trident nuclear programme

Former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix has said it is time for Britain to get rid of its Trident nuclear programme, saying he did not see how the UK would be any more protected if it extended the life of the nuclear programme – at an estimated cost of £100bn.

Nuclear convoy disaster exercise reveals weaknesses in UK emergency response

An internal report released by the UK Ministry of Defence describes the results of an emergency exercise that “has exposed serious weaknesses in Britain's ability to cope with a catastrophic motorway pileup in which a nuclear bomb convoy burns and spreads a cloud of radioactive contamination over nearby communities.”

US bases in Germany may be involved in drone killings

German ARD public television and the national daily paper Süddeutsche Zeitung have claimed that a satellite link located at the US air force base at Ramstein in southern Germany plays a key role in American drone attacks on targets in Africa.

Recommended Reading

Yousaf Butt, “‘Reset’ on Iran now,” Reuters, 16 May 2013

Cesar Jaramillo, “There’s a new sense of urgency for a nuclear weapons ban,” The Record, 17 May 2013

Throwing Money at Nukes,” New York Times, 26 May 2013

Stephanie Hiller, “Nuclear Shenanigans Block Disarmament Progress,” La Jicarita, 11 June 2013

Sergio Duarte, “Nuclear disarmament panorama: an assessment,” Reaching Critical Will Blog, 12 June 2013