(December 4, 1994) On 18 november the United Nations General Assembly challenged the nuclear states' continuing policies of deterrence by adopting a resolution in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) to request the International Court of Justice to state whether or not the use and threat to use nuclear weapons violates international law.
(423.4195) WISE Amsterdam - This resolution is expected to be confirmed by the General Assembly in early December. Indonesian Ambassador Witjaksana Soegarda, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement which introduced the resolution, noted that "...mankind throughout history has used every weapon invented including nuclear arsenals," and that "... the safety, security and survivability of nations must be assured by banning the use of nuclear weapons."
In the accompanying box you will find a list of countries and their vote on this resolution. The nuclear weapons states and the European Union will be lobbying to try and change the vote once the resolution goes to the full Assembly in december.
For Fax Numbers of the United Nations Ambassadors for these countries contact: Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy, Tel; + 1-212 674 7790; Fax: +1-2126746199
The campaign to seek an opinion from the Court was officially launched in 1992 by the International Peace Bureau, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA). World Court Project is an initiative to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice confirming that the use or threat to use nuclear weapons is illegal. Peter Weiss, Co-President of IALANA said that "This decision by the United Nations to test the legality of nuclear weapons is clear evidence that the majority of states want to see a return to the rule of law and an end to these omnicidal weapons."
The resolution had been introduced at the United Nations General Assembly in 1993 but was not voted upon as a result of intense pressure from France, the U.K and the U.S. This year, the Foreign Ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement withstood the pressure and decided by consensus to put the resolution to the vote at the General Assembly.
The Western nuclear states were vociferous in their opposition again this year. The United States argued that the request was inappropriate, abstract and hypothetical and would have 'no practical effect.' Gerard Errera, Ambassador of France to the United Nations in Geneva said that "the very fact of asking for an advisory opinion on the legality of a particular category of arms amounts to questioning the inalienable right of any State or group of States to remain sovereign, as long as they comply with international law, in the -choice of their means of defence. Such an approach is a blatant violations of the UN Charter. It goes against law. it goes against reasons."
The General Assembly request to the Court would complement a case already in the court on the legality of the use (but not threat of use) of nuclear weapons. This case was requested by the World Health Organization in 1993.
The USA, UK, France, Russia, Australia, the Netherlands and Germany have challenged the authority of the Court to rule on the WHO request, while at least 22 other countries have sent submissions to the Court supporting the case.
|N||ANDORRA||-||DOMINICAN REP||A||LIECHTENSTEIN||A||SAN MARINO|
|-||ANGOLA||Y||ECUADOR||A||LITHUANIA||-||SAO TOME PRINCIP|
|A||ANTIQUA BARBUDA||Y||EGYPT||N||LUXEMBOURG||Y||SAUDI ARABIA|
|-||BAHRAIN||N||FINLAND||A||MARSHALL ISL||Y||SOLOMON ISLANDS|
|Y||BRUNEI DAR-SALAM||Y||GUYANA||N||NETHERLANDS||N||THEFYR MACEDONIA|
|-||CENTRAL AFR REP||Y||IRAQ||Y||PANAMA||-||U.A. EMIRATES|
|-||CHAD||A||IRELAND||Y||PAPUA N-GUINEA||N||UNITED KINGDOM|
|-||COTE D'IVOIRE||Y||KENYA||N||REP OF KOREA||Y||VIETNAM|
|-||CROATIA||Y||KUWAIT||A||REP OF MOLDOVA||Y||YEMEN|
|Y||CYPRUS||-||LAO POR||N||RUSSIA||N||FED. ZAIRE|
|Y||DEM RE OF KOREA||Y||LEBANON||-||ST KITTS-NEVIS||Y||ZIMBABWE|
Vic Sidel, Co-President of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War said: "The WHO request to the Court is based on the fact that the use of nuclear weapons has serious health and environmental consequences, which would make their use illegal under international law. Nuclear weapons, indiscriminate in their effects, are weapons of terror, not rational methods of defence."
And Cohn Archer, Secretary-General of the International Peace Bureau explains that the decision from the Court that the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons is illegal would place considerable legal, moral and political pressure on nuclear states to take seriously their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons. It would encourage them to abandon their outmoded nuclear policies which they themselves are beginning to question.
The International Peace Bureau calls for action.
Source and Contact: International Peace Bureau. 41, rue de Zurich, 1201 Geneva, Switzerland. Tel: + 41-22- 731-6429; Fax: +41-22-738-9419. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
IALANA, Postbox 11589, 2502 AN The Hague, The Netherlands.