The World Court and Nuclear Weapons: Who Is Listening?
Ware, Alyn, UN Chronicle
On 8 July 1996, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), otherwise known as the World Court, delivered an historic opinion on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. Citing international laws of war and specific treaties, a majority of the judges declared that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be illegal, and all 14 declared "that 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".
The Court's opinion prompted a flurry of claims and counter-claims. Nuclear-weapon States said that their policies were in accordance with the decision; most others claimed the opposite. The confusion arose because the judges did not condemn nuclear weapons absolutely. While stating that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be illegal, the Court said that it could not rule definitively on whether such illegality would hold "in an extreme circumstance of self defence, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake." The nuclear-weapon States then argued that they only intend to use nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances. Other commentators responded that the nuclear-weapon States were conveniently ignoring a unanimous holding by the ICJ, namely that a threat or use of nuclear weapons "should also be compatible with the requirements of international law applicable in armed conflict, particularly those of the principles and rules of international humanitarian law …
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Publication information: Article title: The World Court and Nuclear Weapons: Who Is Listening?. Contributors: Ware, Alyn - Author. Magazine title: UN Chronicle. Volume: 36. Issue: 4 Publication date: Winter 1999. Page number: 49. © 1998 United Nations Publications. COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group.
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