George Farebrother: in memoriam

george farebrotherThe late George Farebrother, who received the Civilisation 3000 alerts was, as his close colleague described him, “a deeply committed member of the global anti-nuclear movement who was intricately involved in moves to mount legal actions against governments that possess nuclear weapons”.

That colleague, Commander Robert Green Royal Navy (Ret’d) – from the Disarmament & Security Centre in New Zealand – wrote George’s obituary for the Guardian.

He records that from 1991 to 2004, they worked together as secretary and chair, respectively, of the UK affiliate of the World Court Project, an initiative that used the International Court of Justice at the Hague to challenge the legality of nuclear weapons. After the court confirmed in 1996 that the threat or use of nuclear weapons should generally be regarded as illegal, George sustained the project virtually single-handedly until his death.

From the moment he learned about the World Court Project in 1991 he took early retirement and dedicated the rest of his life to its activities. Applying his Quaker beliefs and teaching experience, he came up with the idea of collecting individual “declarations of public conscience” against nuclear weapons, which were accepted by the International Court of Justice as “citizens’ evidence”. This characteristically inventive concept was taken up all over the world, especially in Japan, and George helped present nearly four million declarations to the Court before its historic judgment.

He never gave up trying to engage with decision-makers and their advisers, and became a familiar figure in the corridors of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence, parliament and London embassies. His cogent writing, networking flair and grass roots appeal brought in enough funds to allow him to travel to key United Nations events in New York and Geneva. Constantly devising fresh ways of using the law to mobilise against nuclear weapons, he became adept at producing computerised publicity material.

In the Friend [15.4.05], George reported that one hundred and eighty eight states had ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which obliged them to negotiate their abolition. Individuals who wanted to see the nuclear­-armed states honour their legal obligations and abolish these outrageous weapons forever signed personal declarations which were presented at UN HQ in New York during the NPT Review Conference in May. The declarations also demanded the start of negotiations leading to the abolition of nuclear weapons under strict and effective international control.

The writer, who had not seen George in person for several years, was very pleased to hear news about his work at second hand from a friend, whose daughter Roslyn (below) worked closely with George during his latter years.

roslyn cook world court project

Roslyn thus gained vital experience that has enabled her to continue his work for the abolition of nuclear weapons and a treaty to ban them, as readers may see here: https://twitter.com/roslyncook.

She attended the NPT Review Conference in 2010 with George and will be attending again in April as part of the CND delegation. Currently she is involved in a project to bring 80000 voices together next year to sing for peace and freedom from nuclear weapons.

George had also been secretary of the Sussex Peace Alliance, treasurer of Peacerights, Secretary of Eastbourne for Peace and Liberty, treasurer of the Institute for Law and Peace and a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

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