Citizen Inspections at NATO Bases
European disarmament campaigners again attempted citizen inspections of two NATO air bases on October 1 to confirm the continuing presence of U.S. nuclear weapons. Members of both the Dutch and Belgian parliaments took part in the inspections of the bases in their own countries - Kleine Brogel in Belgium and Volkel in the Netherlands.
About 60 inspectors took many points of entry into Kleine Brogel to question military personnel about the nuclear weapons and gather evidence for the other non-governmental organizations, the Belgian Parliament, and the International Criminal Court.
All were eventually found and arrested, only to be released without charges a few hours later. Prosecution would mean a jury trial, as the offense would be considered a political crime. Therefore, cases involving the arrest of citizen nuclear weapons inspectors very rarely go to court. Strong public opinion against U.S. nukes on Belgian soil suggests that few would be convicted once all the evidence was heard.
Responding to public opinion and the demands of peace groups, Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt announced three weeks later that his government would soon disclose information about the suspected nuclear weapons at Kleine Brogel.
At Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands, 25 arrests were reported during a similar action.
On December 2, NATO defense ministers began a meeting in Brussels. A delegation of twenty international peace activists attempted to deliver a new set of summons to the ministers, detailing NATO nuclear policy violations of international law. The group was immediately broken up by police, intolerant of any peace presence near NATO headquarters.
Cath Bann & Annwen Jones of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament from England and Wales expressed disappointment in being prevented from demonstrating. "It is not only our democratic right to protest against nuclear weapons, but our duty. We find it unbelievable that the Belgian authorities have prohibited democracy in this way. It is a strange situation when we are threatened with arrest for holding a banner, while NATO is allowed to plan for genocide and break international law."
For more information, contact For Mother Earth International, Gents Ecologisch Centrum, Maria-Hendrikaplein 5-6, 9000 Gent, Belgium; tel +32-9-242 87 52; email: email@example.com web: http://www.motherearth.org/
As a result of the September citizen inspection of Kleine Brogel, citizen inspector and For Mother Earth's internet webmaster Justin Samuel was arrested on an international warrant from the United States. Samuel is wanted for animal liberation activities in Wisconsin, and remains in a Belgian jail awaiting extradition.