Valuable Approach to Advance the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons:
Announcing Articles in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and the Fordham International Law Journal
“Nuclear weapons are unworthy of civilization.” Senator Alan Cranston, founder of the Global Security Institute, often stated this maxim after learning about nuclear weapons from Albert Einstein. For decades he was a leading voice for sanity in the halls of the United States Senate and a strong advocate of the view that international peace and security requires the rule of law.
The most recent five-year Review Conference for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was held in May 2010 at the United Nations. The NPT legally binds 189 countries to its terms. The Conference unanimously reaffirmed “the unequivocal undertaking of the nuclear-weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.” This commitment is consistently reinforced by some of the world’s most sophisticated security experts.
The commitment also resonates with a significant body of law known as international humanitarian law (IHL).
IHL governs the use of weaponry and force in war. For example, a weapon’s inhumane and indiscriminate effects are a basis for its prohibition though the weapon may have military utility. Based on IHL principles, nations of the world have long agreed not to use potential weapons such as the plague or mustard gas. More recently, most nations have agreed to bans on landmines and cluster munitions.
In the view of Judge Christopher Weeramantry, the threat or use of nuclear weapons violates IHL and “represents the very negation of the humanitarian concerns which underlie the structure of humanitarian law.”Judge Weeramantry is a former Vice-President of the International Court of Justice and current Co-President of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms.
There is good news. Governments are now recognizing the centrality of humanitarian values and law in this field. The 2010 NPT Review Conference expressed “deep concern at the catastrophic consequences of any use of nuclear weapons” and reaffirmed “the need for all states at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law.”
We strongly agree and believe that this legally and morally founded approach to advancing the non-use and elimination of nuclear weapons is meritorious and persuasive. We have collaborated with Charles J. Moxley, Jr., a preeminent scholar on the application of IHL to nuclear weapons and a Director of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy (LCNP), and Peter Weiss, LCNP President, to develop material we hope you find useful in your work to achieve what President Obama rightly calls “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
In this regard please refer to the following:
1. An article in the current edition of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists entitled “International humanitarian law and nuclear weapons: irreconcilable differences.” They have graciously permitted us to share this article at no cost to introduce you to their outstanding publication. We urge you to subscribe to the Bulletin.
2. An article in the Fordham International Law Journal entitled “Nuclear Weapons and Compliance with International Humanitarian Law and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
3. An article in the Fordham International Law Journal entitled “Taking the Law Seriously: The Imperative Need for a Nuclear Weapons Convention.”
Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy
UN Office of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms