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Fairford cases reach Law Lords, last day tomorrow

Nuala Young (reposted by J) | 23.02.2006 14:01 | Anti-militarism | Globalisation | Repression | London | Oxford

This is probably too late for physical support, but the Fairford 5 could do with help towards expenses or just messages of support.

*Law Lords to consider cases of anti war protestors*

The hearing began on Monday February 20.
The court will sit for four days, and then reconvene on Monday 27 as necessary. Hearings started at 11am on Monday 20th and at 10.30 am each day thereafter.

Committee Rooms 3A/4B the House of Lords. Anyone wishing to attend the hearing will have to enter through St. Stephen's entrance, on Parliament Road in the Houses of Parliament building.

The Law Lords will decide if there is a defence open to individuals who break the law in order to prevent a greater 'crime of aggression'. The landmark hearing will consider the appeals of nineteen people, who took direct action to try and prevent the Iraq war, including:

* Margaret Jones & Paul Milling, Toby Olditch, Philip Pritchard
and Josh Richards - five people who entered the RAF Fairford base
and attempted to damage and immobilise American B52 bombers which
were later involved in the 'shock and awe' assault on Baghdad (2).
* Valerie Swain - convicted for trying to enter the RAF Fairford
base (3).
* The 'Marchwood 14' - Greenpeace volunteers who took part in a week
of action at Southampton docks in an attempt to stop or delay
military hardware leaving the country for Iraq, so that the all
important 'weather window' for the invasion would be missed (1).

The 14 Greenpeace volunteers and Valerie Swain have already been convicted. The trials of the other five are still pending. The outcome of the hearing will determine whether they have access to a full and complete defence when their cases are heard in Bristol Crown Court later this year.

The Greenpeace appellants legal team will be led by Rabinder Singh of Matrix Chambers and also include Vaughan Lowe - Professor of International Law at Oxford and Nick Grieff - International Law Professor at Bournemouth University.

Lord Bingham will chair the panel hearing the appeal, which also includes Lords Hoffman, Roger, Carswell, and Mance.

Greenpeace Executive Director Stephen Tindale said, "This case is crucial as it could help ensure that the UK is never again dragged into an illegal pre-emptive war, against UN wishes and based on dodgy intelligence".

"These people acted because they believed that the Iraq war was both illegal and morally wrong. The majority of international lawyers have since agreed the war was illegal. Yet our volunteers were prevented from arguing this in court and were effectively denied a fair trial.

"If we are to have a society where governments as well as individuals can be held accountable for their actions and the international rules of law are upheld, then it's crucial that the right to this defence of preventing a crime of aggression is upheld".

Key legal points which will be considered by the Lords are:

1. Is the crime of aggression, defined and last used by the
International Military War crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1945-6,
and enshrined in UN law by the 1946 UN General Assembly, still
part of international law?
2. If a crime of aggression is illegal under international law is it
a crime in UK law? In his controversial legal advice the Attorney
General certainly believed so, he stated, "Aggression is a crime
under customary international law which automatically forms part
of domestic law".
3. Should UK courts have the authority to consider foreign affairs
and defence issues?
4. Were the Greenpeace defendants subjected to an unfair trial,
contrary to article 6 of the Convention on Human Rights, because
they were not allowed to argue issues which related to the
legality of the war?

*Editor's notes*

1. 'The Marchwood 14' - In February 2003 14 Greenpeace volunteers
occupied tanks at Marchwood military base in Southampton, from
where hardware and supplies were being sent to Iraq. The
occupation was part of a wider week of actions at Marchwood,
involving many other volunteers, which aimed to stop the build up
to war. Other actions included using the Greenpeace flagship the
Rainbow Warrior to blockade Marchwood military port and stop
military hardware leaving for the Gulf and boarding and
conducting a sit in on a military supply ship bound for the Gulf
with a cargo of military hardware.

The 14 Greenpeace protestors were convicted of aggravated trespass
on 16th February 2004. The Marchwood 14 are: Oliver Knowles of
Stamford Hill, London; Ashby Smith of San Francisco, USA; Laura
Yates of London; Natalie Duck of Peckham, London; Graham Thompson
of Romford, Essex; Helen Wallace of Buxton, Derbyshire; Janice
Harron of Donegal; Jim Footner of Shropshire; Rachel Murray of
Glasgow; Richard Watson of Burnley; Robin Oakley of Lancashire;
Belinda Fletcher; Ben Ayliffe of Highbury, London; Jens Loewe of
2. Actions at RAF Fairford: In March 2003, Paul Milling, Margaret
Jones, Philip Pritchard, Toby Olditch and Josh Richards undertook
three, independent, actions, to try and prevent or delay the
take-off of American B-52 bombers from Fairford air force base in
Gloucestershire. These bombers were waiting to launch the attack
on Iraq that would begin the Iraq war. In the case of Milling and
Jones, the action involved disabling a fleet of bomb carriers and
other support vehicles used to supply the B-52 bombers. Olditch
and Pritchard were arrested inside RAF Fairford on their way to
the B52's. Josh Richards was arrested on his way into the base.

All five say they were justified in their actions, because they
aimed at preventing the commission of a far greater crime - that
of 'aggression', of starting an unprovoked war against another
country. Lower courts have so far denied them this defence
argument, saying that the alleged crime of attacking another
country is a matter for international law, which cannot be ruled
on in a British court. They will stand trial, separately, at
Bristol Crown Court later this year.
3. Valerie Swain - on the 9th March 2003 Valerie Swain cut a fence at
RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire and entered the base with the
intention of disrupting the loading of B52 aeroplanes destined to
take part in the bombing of Iraq and to disturb the preparations
for war. She was convicted of aggravated trespass.

For more information about the Marchwood case: call Greenpeace UK press office on 0207 865 8255.

Greenpeace media contact at Court during the trial: Louise Edge 07801-212993.

For more information about the various Fairford cases contact:

Margaret Jones on 0117 9466885 or Paul Milling on 07765 836150

Philip Pritchard and Toby Olditch at or
email .

For more information about the Valerie Swain case contact her on 029 20384384 or 07980 048928.

See also:,,1713624,00.html

Nuala Young (reposted by J)


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  1. Any news on their verdict? — James