International Law

It is widely held that nuclear weapons are incompatible with international humanitarian law, the law stating what is universally prohibited in warfare. Because of their uncontrollable blast, heat, and radiation effects, nuclear weapons are indeed weapons of mass destruction that by their nature cannot comply with fundamental rules forbidding the infliction of indiscriminate and disproportionate harm. Drawing on the success of the ban on cluster munitions and landmines, the application of customary and international humanitarian law to nuclear weapons has been gaining traction as an approach to achieve their universal elimination and prohibition.

Below you can find a selection of articles on the relationship between International Humanitarian Law and Customary Law and nuclear weapons. Also available are other documents spelling out the obligations of States, such as the Final Documents of the last four NPT Review Conferences and the 1996 landmark Advisory Opinion on nuclear weapons by the International Court of Justice.

The Humanitarian Imperative for Nuclear Disarmament
John Burroughs
Middle Powers Initiative Briefing Paper
September 2010

Humanitarian law or nuclear weapons: choose one
John Burroughs
First Committee Monitor
4 October 2010

An Ottawa Process for Nukes
Alyn Ware
10 November 2010

A New Approach to Nuclear Disarmament: Learning from International Humanitarian Law Success
Patricia Lewis
ICNND Paper No. 13
9 December 2010

Nuclear Weapons and Compliance with International Humanitarian Law and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
Charles Moxley, Jr., John Burroughs, Jonathan Granoff
Fordham International Law Journal
Winter 2011

Taking the Law Seriously: The Imperative Need for a Nuclear Weapons Convention
Peter Weiss
Fordham International Law Journal
Winter 2011

We all share the duty to eliminate nuclear weapons
Malcolm Fraser
Sunday Morning Herald
8 July 2011

Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference Documents

International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons
8 July 1996

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