Nuclear Weapons and International Law 2020: Virtual Conference

On November 12, 2020, the International Section of the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) hosted an all-day virtual conference on nuclear weapons and international law. An exceptional group of experts in law, policy, diplomacy, and advocacy joined high-level officials from the United Nations and the United States to examine the application of international law to nuclear weapons and policy and advocacy strategies for control and elimination of the weapons and for ensuring their non-use. Speakers examined national nuclear weapons postures, international humanitarian law, human rights law, the UN system, the non-proliferation regime, and civil society advocacy, including religious approaches.

  • A report on the conference is here, including summaries of the sessions with video links.
  • The agenda with video links, speakers’ biographies, texts of remarks, and a bibliography are available here.
  • Video of the conference is also available here.

Speakers included Prof. Osamu Arakaki of International Christian University, Japan; Hans Kristensen of Federation of American Scientists; Prof. Scott Sagan of Stanford University; UN Under-Secretary-General Izumi Nakamitsu; Ariana Smith and Dr. John Burroughs of Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy; Allison Pytlak of Reaching Critical Will/WILPF; American Bar Association President Patricia Lee Refo; Global Security Institute President Jonathan Granoff; Governor Jerry Brown, Executive Chairman, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; Ambassador Christopher Ford, Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation; Ambassador Thomas Graham, former Special Representative for Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament; Dr. Gloria Duffy, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense; Prof. Charles Moxley of Fordham Law; Prof. David Koplow of Georgetown Law; Kathleen Lawand of the International Committee of the Red Cross; Laurie Ashton, counsel for the Marshall Islands in its nuclear disarmament cases; Jacqueline Cabasso of Western States Legal Foundation; Rev. Drew Christiansen of Georgetown University; Tom Collina of Ploughshares Fund; and Audrey Kitigawa of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, Global Security Institute, and the International Law Section of the American Bar Association co-sponsored and co-organized the conference with the NYSBA International Section and its incoming Chair, Edward Lenci. Additional co-sponsors were Fordham Law School, Center on National Security; Georgetown University, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs; New York City Bar Association, Committees on International Law, Military and Veteran Affairs, the United Nations, and Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice; and New York County Lawyers Association, Committee on Foreign & International Law.

Human Rights Versus Nuclear Weapons: New Dimensions

By LCNP
Commentary and Analysis regarding UN Human Rights Committee General Comment no. 36; the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons; Human Rights, Democracy, and Nuclear Weapons

Available as download below

We are witnessing a resurgence of interest in the application of international human rights law to one of the principal threats to the human future: nuclear weapons. A general comment issued by the UN Human Rights Committee in 2018 finds the threat or use of nuclear weapons to be incompatible with respect for the right to life. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons adopted a year earlier is suffused with a humanitarian perspective, protects the rights of victims of testing and use of nuclear arms, and cites human rights law and the principles of humanity in its preamble.

Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy (LCNP) twice brought together leading lawyers, law professors, and analysts to reflect on these developments, in December 2018 and in May 2019. This publication collects papers based on the speakers’ remarks.

  • Prof. Roger Clark of Rutgers Law, LCNP Executive Director Ariana Smith, LCNP President Emeritus Peter Weiss, and Dr. Daniel Rietiker of the University of Lausanne examine and reflect upon the significance and implications of the finding of the UN Human Rights Committee.
  • Bonnie Docherty of the Harvard Law International Human Rights Clinic addresses human rights aspects of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
  • Andrew Lichterman of Western States Legal Foundation explores how human rights discourse could be a terrain for making connections between disarmament movements and other movements for a more fair, democratic, and ecologically sustainable society.

This publication is highly recommended reading for anyone seeking to understand how a human rights approach can contribute to the abolition of nuclear weapons.

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/