The adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in New York, on July 7, 2017, shifted the paradigm in nuclear disarmament after more than twenty years of stagnation in the field. After biological and chemical weapons bans in 1972 and 1993, respectively, the remaining weapons of mass destruction will be banned once the TPNW enters into force. Even though there is considerable disagreement on the practical impact of a treaty for nuclear disarmament and international security, the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the coalition that was instrumental in the negotiations and adoption of the treaty, demonstrates the treaty’s significance and immediate impact.
A Report on a May 1, 2018 Panel Discussion
By Seth Shelden, for the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy
In a compelling side event held May 1, 2018 at the NPT PrepCom at the United Nations in Geneva, speakers analyzed nuclear weapons under the rubric of human rights law and law protecting future generations. The event was sponsored by the Basel Peace Office, the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) and the Abolition 2000 Working Group on Nuclear Weapons and International Law.
On the first anniversary of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), new YouGov polling commissioned by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has found an overwhelming rejection of nuclear weapons. The poll was conducted in the four EU countries that host US nuclear weapons: Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Italy. In each country, an overwhelming majority of people surveyed were in favour of removing the weapons from their soil, and for their countries to sign the Treaty that bans them outright.
What did the survey find?
1. At least twice as many people are in favour of removing the weapons than keeping them.
2. At least four times as many people are in favour of their country signing the TPNW than not signing the TPNW.
3. At least four times as many people are against companies in their country investing in nuclear weapons activities than in favour of it.
4. A strong majority of people are against NATO buying new fighter jets that are able to carry both nuclear weapons and conventional weapons.
Civil Society Presentation to NPT PrepCom, Geneva
International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms
25 April 2018
Delivered by Amela Skiljan, Board member, German IALANA
On 22 August 2017, a true hero of the nuclear age, Tony de Brum, passed away. He did many important things in his life. One of them was that as Foreign Minister, he spearheaded the Marshall Islands’ nuclear disarmament cases in the International Court of Justice. When the cases were filed, in April 2014, he said: “Our people have suffered the catastrophic and irreparable damage of nuclear weapons and we vow to fight so that no one else on Earth will ever again experience these atrocities.” Regrettably, by the narrowest of margins the Court refused to adjudicate the cases on their merits. But de Brum’s call to action should serve as an inspiration on other fronts, not least this NPT review process.
We are now faced with a contradictory environment. A majority of the world’s states last year adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Going entirely in the other direction, the two largest nuclear powers, the United States and Russia, appear poised to resume nuclear arms racing reminiscent of the darkest days of the Cold War.
The US Nuclear Posture Review released on February 2 proposes two new capabilities, both aimed at Russia, a low-yield warhead deployed on submarine-launched missiles, and a sea-based, nuclear-armed cruise missile. It also endorses replacement of an air-launched cruise missile with a stealthier, more capable version. And the review emphasizes the role of nuclear weapons in responding to “non-nuclear strategic attacks,” notably cyberattacks.
In a March 1 address, President Vladimir Putin described an array of new nuclear weapons delivery systems, including a nuclear-powered cruise missile, an underwater drone carrying “massive nuclear ordinance”, and a multiple warhead ballistic missile with virtually unlimited range capable of flying over the South as well as the North Pole.
All of this stands in blatant disregard of the NPT. The NPT preamble declares the “intention to achieve at the earliest possible date the cessation of the nuclear arms race”. And of course, Article VI requires the pursuit of negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date.
The concept animating Article VI was that quantitative build-up and qualitative improvement of nuclear arsenals was to be ended prior to negotiations on their elimination. By the mid-1990s, the agenda had been partly achieved. Nuclear arsenals were reducing in size, and nuclear explosive testing was halted. Indeed, in a 1995 declaration, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States welcomed “the fact that the nuclear arms race has ceased.”[*]
But the gains of the 1990s are now being reversed. Hence the need to go back to the basics. Qualitative – and possibly quantitative – nuclear arms racing should now be out of the question. The “early date” has long since passed! Yet there are no negotiations on the subject taking place or in sight, clearly a breach of Article VI, which requires such negotiations to be pursued and concluded. And the weapons development described by Putin and the Nuclear Posture Review is a breach of the legal requirement of good faith in relation to the objectives of Article VI.
As we approach its fiftieth anniversary, the NPT risks losing its appeal as a tool for disarmament, and its viability as a bulwark against proliferation is even in question. The implementation of well-known steps is vital. They include a pledge not to initiate nuclear warfare; hold-out states’ ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty to bring it into legal force; and ending nuclear sharing, the NPT-violative arrangement for five states to host and potentially use US nuclear bombs.
Above all, nuclear-armed states must abandon the myth that ‘nuclear deterrence’ keeps us safe. Now more than ever, it is imperative to comply with the unanimous conclusion of the International Court of Justice: “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”
Brochure by Daniel Rietiker and Manfred Mohr
The events of July 7, 2017 at the United Nations in New York deserve our attention. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)
constitutes a real paradigm shift, and the end of a period of stagnation in
nuclear disarmament of more than 20 years. After biological (1972) and
chemical weapons (1993), the remaining type of weapons of mass destruction will be banned once the treaty enters into force.
Even though there is considerable disagreement on the practical implications of the treaty for nuclear disarmament and international security, its significance has been confirmed by the fact that the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the coalition that was instrumental in the negotiation and adoption of the treaty, was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.
End of March 2018, 57 States have signed the TPNW and 7 have ratified it
so far. 50 ratifications will be necessary for the treaty to enter into force.
Once in force, it will reinforce the norm against nuclear weapons, create new momentum for nuclear disarmament, give civil society a new tool in its fight for a world free from nuclear weapons, and put more pressure on Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) and their allies.
The new instrument is a “treaty” in the sense of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT), namely an “international agreement concluded between States in written form and governed by international law (…)”. 1 As such, it is quite a complex construction that will certainly raise many questions of interpretation during its hopefully long life. The present short article-by-article commentary is intended to facilitate understanding of the new treaty, without going into great legal detail. It is intended for a general audience, including persons not possessing deep knowledge of international law. We hope it will stimulate debate about this new instrument, inform representatives of civil society, teach young people and students, and assist diplomats and State agents in their work towards ratification of the treaty.
Read the full text: Ban Treaty Commentary_April 2018
Read the full text in Deutsch/ German: Deutsch – Kommentar zum Vertrag über das Verbot von Kernwaffen_180613
By Andrew Lichterman and John Burroughs
President Vladimir Putin’s major address on March 1 to Russia’s Federal Assembly was candid about the economic and social challenges facing Russians. What attracted attention in the United States, however, was a detailed description, complete with video animations, of an array of new nuclear weapons delivery systems, including a nuclear-powered cruise missile and an underwater drone.
Continue reading the article:
The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) released today at the Pentagon ignores international legal obligations of the United States and increases the risks of nuclear war. Prepared by the Department of Defense in consultation with other agencies, the review was approved by the White House.
Aside from a vague reference to “goals” of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the NPR does not acknowledge the obligation under that treaty “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.” That obligation was reinforced by an NPT Review Conference “unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination” of nuclear arsenals, a commitment approved by the United States. According to a unanimous conclusion of the International Court of Justice, the obligation requires states “to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects.”
None of this is reflected in the NPR. The most offered is a grudging acceptance of arms control measures for purposes of stability and predictability. The Trump NPR thus stands in marked contrast to the 2010 review conducted by the Obama administration, which committed the United States to seek the eventual achievement of a world free of nuclear weapons and addressed how to succeed in that endeavor in some detail.
The Trump NPR asserts in passing that the “conduct of nuclear operations would adhere to the law of armed conflict.” A 2013 Pentagon Report on Nuclear Employment Strategy had stated that all plans for use of nuclear weapons must “for instance, apply the principles of distinction and proportionality and seek to minimize the collateral damage to civilian populations and civilian objects.” In public appearances last fall, the present and preceding commanders of Strategic Command stated that orders to use nuclear weapons in violation of the law of armed conflict would be refused. The truth is that nuclear weapons cannot be used in compliance with that law, above all because their massive indiscriminate effects make it impossible to distinguish between military targets and civilian populations and infrastructure.
The NPR expands the role of nuclear weapons by identifying new circumstances in which they could be used, namely in response to “strategic non-nuclear attacks” including cyber attacks. This change runs directly counter to an NPT commitment to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in security policies in order to facilitate disarmament. It is contrary to the requirement of good faith in pursuing disarmament. And it raises the risks of nuclear war. For example, hard-to-attribute apparent cyber attacks will be considered a possible reason to resort to nuclear weapons, a change that will be all the more risky if other nuclear powers emulate the US policy.
A plan announced by the NPR for the acquisition of low-yield warheads to be mounted on submarine-based missiles is also contrary to the NPT commitment to reduce the role of nuclear weapons. It is especially disturbing because it comes in the context of the NPR’s theme that an era of great-power rivalry has returned. The proposed low-yield warheads are a return to a mode of nuclear war-fighting; supposedly Russia would not be deterred from initiating use of nuclear weapons to “deescalate” a conflict unless the United States has such a capability. Such scenarios rest on the dangerous assumption that nuclear escalation can be controlled. Further, the United States already has deployed low-yield nuclear weapons.
Finally, the Trump NPR carries forward existing plans for the replacement and upgrading of submarine-based, land-based, and air-based (bomber and cruise missile) nuclear forces, while adding a new element, a sea-based cruise missile. From any point of view, this is an extravagant and unaffordable plan. In the budgetary process, Congress must reject the NPR recommendations and inject some sanity into US nuclear planning.
Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, February 3, 2018
Contact: Executive Director John Burroughs
email@example.com, (212) 818-1861
To President Donald Trump
United States of America
February 6, 2018
Letter of Protest against the US Nuclear Posture Review
We, of the people of Japan, the A-bombed country strongly protest against your nuclear policy formulated in the newly released “Nuclear Posture Review”, which brings the US much closer to the actual use of nuclear weapons by modernizing your nuclear arsenals and developing new nuclear weapons.
Trying to justify that nuclear weapons are necessary for the security, the NPR sets out sustaining and modernizing the nuclear triad (SSBNs, ICBMs and strategic nuclear bombers), as well as the development of law-yield nuclear warheads and sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs). Besides it does not even exclude the first nuclear strike.
As the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused by the A-bombings of the USA showed, any use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic humanitarian consequences. The world opinion determined not to allow this calamity to be ever repeated led to the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in the United Nations last year. The policies laid down by the NPR run counter to this worldwide development in favor of a world without nuclear weapons.
The redeployment of SLBMs will increase the danger of nuclear weapons being brought into the territory of this A-bombed country. We resolutely oppose the bringing of nuclear weapons into Japan in any form.
We call on you and your Administration to cancel all nuclear build-up plans and nuclear strike policies formulated in the NPR. We urge you to sincerely endeavor to achieve a “world without nuclear weapons”, which the United States once vowed to pursue, beginning with joining in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
The 90th General Assembly of the National Board of Directors
Japan Council against A and H Bombs (Gensuikyo)
IALANA and the Association of Swiss Lawyers for Nuclear Disarmament (SLND) submitted a text regarding the Human Rights Committee’s second draft of a general comment on the right to life, Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Read the text here: