The nuclear abolition and human rights movements last week lost one of our most determined and active campaigners. Peter King, founding President of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and Co-founder of the Human Survival Project, passed away on 5 August in Sydney from pancreatic cancer.
Peter was a respected academic. He held professorial appointments at the University of Sydney, University of Papua New Guinea, University of Tokyo, Wollongong University and Kagoshima University, and wrote numerous books and research papers on governance, international relations, conflict resolution, human rights, self-determination and nuclear weapons.
However, he was even more passionate as an activist, being a leader in the campaigns for human rights and self-determination in West Papua, and in global campaigns to highlight the risks of nuclear weapons.
His most recent project, the Peoples’ Tribunal on Nuclear Weapons and the Destruction of Human Civilisation, brought together law, science, international relations, ethics and campaigning in an initiative which could have global impact. Peter was a dynamic force in the hearings, which were held at the University of Sydney from July 6-8 this year, despite his terminal illness.
The Tribunal highlights the personal responsibility that the leaders of the nine-nuclear armed States have for crimes against humanity, crimes against peace and war crimes, and the responsibility that the leaders of the nuclear allies have for aiding and abetting these crimes. If the judges uphold the prosecution’s charges in their decision on August 16, this could have an even greater impact than the London Nuclear Warfare Tribunal, which paved the way for the historic 1996 International Court of Justice case against nuclear weapons. See a video of Peter King in Geneva discussing the Peoples’ Tribunal
Peter is remembered by leading figures in Australia and around the world:
Peter’s mortal struggle is now over. However, he never gave up the effort to open the eyes of today’s generation to the fearsome dangers of nuclear proliferation. This will be his legacy. All of us should take inspiration from his efforts. So many of our fellow citizens prefer to think of trivial things when this mighty danger is still just around the corner. Staring us in the eyes.
Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG, Former Justice of the High Court of Australia,
Peter: colleague, mate, and fellow worker on ensuring that the human species does not achieve its own extinction. There is just no-one to step into your shoes. You’ve paid your dues to the world, mate. I’m going to miss you like hell.
John Hallam, Co-founder Human Survival Project
Peter was a remarkably insightful, moral, witty, and determined man. He always had a twinkle in his eye and something important to say. His smile made you feel comfortable and glad to be in his company. I am grateful that I came to know him and had the chance to know him and his family. He certainly will be missed.
Steven Starr, Senior Scientist, Physicians for Social Responsibility. Director, Clinical Lab Science Program, University of Missouri, USA
It was wonderful to have shared some brief time with Peter at the Tribunal recently, and we are all in his debt for his hard work on these important issues
Assoc. Prof Marianne Hanson, University of Queensland
I, too, am deeply saddened by the news of Peter’s passing. I knew him well enough to know that he was a decent, dedicated and wise man. Such individuals are rare treasures in our world and his loss came too soon.
David Krieger, President of Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Peter: You are one of the true heroes of our time… with a persistent passion for peace and disarmament, skills to engage and empower others to rise above mediocrity, a selflessness and humility while ensuring caring and respect for others, an academic and orator who can wipe away illusion and illuminate truth, a leader in the global campaign to challenge the most egregious of crimes and the most powerful criminals.
Alyn Ware, lead prosecutor of the Peoples’ Tribunal on Nuclear Weapons and the Destruction of Human Civilisation
Peter was a great scholar and mainstay of the Australian Peace Movement. He was an anti-nuclear activist; worked for the freedom of West Papua and was a great advocate for peace justice and human rights all his life. He was also just a lovely human being with a great zest for life. He had a wonderful sense of humour. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
Deborah Brooks, Former Secretary of the Australian Coalition for Disarmament and Peace
Peter was a person of great dedication, a respected scholar and peace activist. Throughout his life, he devoted much creative energy to projects concerned with ‘peace with justice’. He is sadly missed. What I found particularly striking about Peter was his strong and abiding engagement with moral, political and legal questions on nuclear weapons, including the claims of nuclear deterrence doctrine. He saw it as vital to work together to ensure a live-able planet, and to protect the rights of future generations.
Francis Hutchinson, Human Survival Project member, Department of Peace and Conflict Studies(DPACS), Sydney University, and former Adjunct Professor of Peace Studies, University of New England.