Building Blocks for Nuclear Ban Treaty: NPT & Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice

By Dr. John Burroughs, Senior Analyst, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy

NEW YORK, Nov 2 2020 (IPS) – The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will become binding law for participating states on January 22, 2021. Entry into force was triggered on October 24, the date marking the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, when Honduras become the 50th state to ratify the TPNW, reaching the threshold set by the treaty.

This is a signal accomplishment on the part of the 122 states, none nuclear-armed, that negotiated and adopted the TPNW in 2017, along with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which provided expert advice, and the International Campaign to Aboilish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a civil society initiative that won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.

Together, the negotiating states, the ICRC, and ICAN took responsibility for creating a path toward the global elimination of nuclear weapons, essentially because the world’s most powerful states – all nuclear armed – are failing to do so.

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Statement on the Imminent Entry into Force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

As of 24 October, 50 states have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). By its terms (Article 15), the treaty will enter into force in 90 days, becoming legally binding for states that have joined the treaty.

The treaty was negotiated in 2017 and adopted in New York on 7 July 2017 by 122 states voting in favor (one against and one abstention), none of them possessors of nuclear arms. They took responsibility for creating a path toward the global elimination of nuclear weapons, essentially because the world’s most powerful states—all nuclear-armed—are failing to do so despite the disarmament obligation set forth in Article VI of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The central theme of the process leading to the adoption of the treaty was the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of use of nuclear weapons.

The TPNW robustly recognizes and reinforces existing international law requiring the non-use and elimination of nuclear weapons. That law applies to states whether or not they join the treaty, as the treaty’s preamble recognizes.

  • The preamble reaffirms the need for all states at all times to comply with international humanitarian law forbidding, inter alia, the infliction of indiscriminate harm and unnecessary suffering, as well as with international human rights law, and considers that any use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to international humanitarian law.
  • It also reaffirms the universal obligation to pursue in good faith and conclude negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control. This obligation was affirmed in a unanimous conclusion of the International Court of Justice in the 1996 Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons.

In an innovation in the nuclear weapons sphere reflecting the rise of human- and victim-centred disarmament, the TPNW sets forth obligations of assistance to victims of testing and use of nuclear weapons and of environmental remediation of areas affected by testing and use (Article 6). It also requires states parties in a position to do so to assist affected states parties with victim assistance and environmental remediation (Article 7). These provisions are important because they recognize and address concretely the unacceptable suffering and devastation that have resulted from the use and testing of nuclear arms, and which could result again if current trends in global affairs are not reversed.

China, France, the Russian Federation, United Kingdom, and United States are the five states acknowledged by the NPT to possess nuclear weapons pending their elimination in accordance with its Article VI, and also the permanent members of the Security Council. They have repeatedly and jointly stated their opposition to the TPNW and their intention not to join the treaty. The United States reportedly has gone so far as to press states that have ratified the TPNW to withdraw their ratifications so that the treaty does not enter into force.

The Permanent Five’s opposition to the TPNW is counterproductive to the cause of disarmament. They instead should welcome the treaty as a reinforcement of obligations of non-acquisition of nuclear weapons set out in the NPT and regional nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties and as a powerful statement of the moral, political, and legal principles that should guide the abolition of nuclear arms.

IALANA welcomes the ratification of the TPNW by 50 states triggering its entry into force in 90 days. We encourage other states to consider ratification in the near future.

IALANA is a partner of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Japanese Translation

Priorities for International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) for the next 5-10 years

Written by Daniel Rietiker, Phon van den Biesen (IALANA co-presidents), in cooperation with John Burroughs, director of the UN office of IALANA and with input from Aotearoa Lawyers for Peace, German IALANA, Japan Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (JALANA), Lawyers for Social Responsibility (Canada), and from a few individual members.

Introduction

Climate change and the threat and use of nuclear weapons as well as the current Covid-19 pandemic must be considered to be among the most serious threats that humankind faces today. They have at least two features in common, namely that they are global in nature and that they can only be eliminated through global cooperation and leadership supported and assisted by the expertise and experience of civil society. It is likely that the current Covid-19 pandemic is only a first example of different forms of global pandemics that humanity will face more frequently in the near future. Two of those threats, nuclear weapons and climate change, are part of IALANA’s policy in the near future and are, therefore, covered in the present paper.

This paper is intended to summarize the near future of IALANA’s policy and to come up with projects that keep it relevant in the field. It lays out the organization’s priorities for the next 5 to 10 years. It is to be used for fund raising. It shall also allow IALANA members to decide whether, and to what extent, they want to be actively involved in our organization. They can sign up to certain projects and commit to their realization. Moreover, it may also help to involve a more diverse, new generation of lawyers. IALANA should seek to better connect with other civil society organizations dealing with nuclear weapons and/or human rights, climate change and development.

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Journal of International Law and Comity

Ladies and Gentlemen,

please find below a link to a new international law journal by Weeramantry Centre for Peace, Justice and International Law of which Vol. I was dedicated to the role of India and its civil society in the fight for a world free of nuclear weapons. For the time being, the journal is available online only. The introduction has been written by Daniel Rietiker, who is a member of the advisory board of the journal, and the articles have been selected within a students’ competition among many submissions received.

The main editors of the new journal belong to a newly created Weeramantry Centre in New Delhi.

Please feel free to circulate and spread these informations in your circles.

Best wishes,

Daniel Rietiker

View Volume 1

Russian Nuclear Weapons Policy and the Right to Life

List of Issues Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Committee During its Periodic Review of the Russian Federation

129th SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE,
29 JUNE TO 30 JULY 2020

Submitted 1 June 2020 by:

LAWYERS COMMITTEE ON NUCLEAR POLICY
www.lcnp.org; johnburroughs [at] lcnp.org
220 E. 49th St., New York, NY 10017 USA

Founded in 1981, LCNP is a nonprofit educational association of lawyers and legalscholars that engages in research and advocacy in support of the global elimination of nuclear weapons and a more just and peaceful world through respect for domestic and international law. LCNP serves as the United Nations office of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms.

WESTERN STATES LEGAL FOUNDATION
www.wslfweb.org
655 13th Street, Suite 201, Oakland, CA 94612 USA

Founded in 1982, WSLF is a nonprofit organization that seeks to abolish nuclear weapons as an essential step in making possible a more secure, just, and environmentally sustainable world. Grounded in commitments to nonviolence and international law, WSLF provides independent information and analysis to a wide range of audiences. WSLF is an affiliateof the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms.

1. In paragraph 66 of General Comment No. 36[1] on the right to life set out in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the United Nations Human Rights Committee stated (endnotes omitted):

Continue reading “Russian Nuclear Weapons Policy and the Right to Life”

Michael Adams Lecture and Conversation at the United Nations by Peter Weiss

On November 21, LCNP and IALANA President Emeritus Peter Weiss delivered the J. Michael Adams Lecture and Conversation at the United Nations. He covered a range of topics, from decartelization to decolonization to human rights to the illegality of nuclear weapons, and more. In the Q&A, in response to a question from LCNP Board member Jonathan Granoff, he recalled that the 1981 founding of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy was inspired by a paper on international law and nuclear weapons whose lead author was Professor Richard Falk, a member of the LCNP Board. 

A webcast of the event is linked at www.lcnp.org and is at:

http://webtv.un.org/watch/dgc-united-nations-academic-impact-j.-michael-adams-lecture-and-conversation/6106863250001/

JALANA Statement on the 2nd US-DPRK Summit

April 1, 2019

Takeya Sassaki,

President, Japan Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (JALANA)

Japan Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (JALANA) hereby expresses its views on the Hanoi Summit between Donald Trump, the president of the United States, and Kim Jong Un, the chairman of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) held on February 27 and 28 as follows:

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UNHRC about Nuclear Weapons in General Comment No. 36

UNHRC about Nuclear Weapons: The Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy analyses the Comment about Nuclear Weapons by the Human Rights Committee in 2018. The general comment No. 36 considers the threat and use of nuclear weapons incompatible with the right to life.

The statement in the General Comment by the UNHRC about nuclear weapons was found in paragraph 66, stating “the threat or use of weapons of mass destruction, in particular nuclear weapons, which are indiscriminate in effect and are of a nature to cause destruction of human life on a catastrophic scale is incompatible with respect for the right to life and may amount to a crime under international law. States parties must take all necessary measures to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including measures to prevent their acquisition by non-state actors, to refrain from developing, producing, testing, acquiring, stockpiling, selling, transferring and using them, to destroy existing stockpiles, and to take adequate measures of protection against accidental use, all in accordance with their international obligations. They must also respect their international obligations to pursue in good faith negotiations in order to achieve the aim of nuclear disarmament under strict and effective international control. And to afford adequate reparation to victims whose right to life has been or is being adversely affected by the testing or use of weapons of mass destruction, in accordance with principles of international responsibility.”

View the video of the discussion with the title “The Right to Life versus Nuclear Weapons: A Bold Intervention by the UN Human Rights Committee”

Chaired by Dr. John Burroughs (Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy), speakers were Dr. Roger S. Clark (Rutgers Law), Ariana Smith (CUNY School of Law), and Peter Weiss (Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights).

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Threat and use of nuclear weapons contrary to right to life, says UN Human Rights Committee

On 30 October 2018, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), which is in charge of the implementation of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), has adopted its General Comment (GC) no. 36 relating to the right to life (Article 6 ICCPR). It is in many respects a remarkable document and a new example for bridge-building between nuclear arms control and human rights. In para. 66, the HRC considers the threat and use of WMD, in particular nuclear weapons, incompatible with the right to life and reiterates the duties of the States Parties in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

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Japanese Translation by JALANA:
http://www.hankaku-j.org/data/07/181107.html

Read more about the HRC statement here