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Publications: eNews No. 10

December 2011, No. 10: The Humanitarian Imperative for Nuclear Abolition
From: John Burroughs, Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy

The global nuclear disarmament enterprise has faltered since New START, the modest US-Russian nuclear arms reduction agreement of 2010. But thorough-going debunking of nuclear weapons keeps gaining momentum, with crucial input from LCNP. A consensus is rapidly crystallizing that nuclear weapons are simply unacceptable on legal and humanitarian grounds and must be abolished. See end of this eNews for how you can support LCNP’s vital work.

Early this year, The Simons Foundation and LCNP/International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) released the Vancouver Declaration, “Law’s Imperative for the Urgent Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World.” Signed by eminent experts in international law and diplomacy, the declaration observes that with their uncontrollable blast, heat, and radiation effects, nuclear weapons are indeed weapons of mass destruction that by their nature cannot comply with fundamental rules of international humanitarian law (IHL) forbidding the infliction of indiscriminate and disproportionate harm.

Since then, several important statements to the same effect have been issued:

• On November 26, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement adopted a resolution that “emphasizes the incalculable human suffering that can be expected to result from any use of nuclear weapons, the lack of any adequate humanitarian response capacity and the absolute imperative to prevent such use,” that “finds it difficult to envisage how any use of nuclear weapons could be compatible with the rules of international humanitarian law” governing the conduct of warfare, and that appeals to all states “to pursue in good faith and conclude with urgency and determination negotiations to prohibit the use of and completely eliminate nuclear weapons through a legally binding international agreement” – a.k.a. a Nuclear Weapons Convention.

• In a December 12 inaugural statement, the Asia Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, convened by former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, stated that the use of “indiscriminately inhumane” nuclear weapons is “an affront to every fundamental principle of international humanitarian law,” that “so long as any nuclear weapons remain anywhere, they are bound one day to be used – by design, mistake or miscalculation – by state or non-state actors,” and that while “nuclear weapons cannot be uninvented, they can and must be outlawed, as chemical and biological weapons have been.” See IPS story, “Asian Leaders Campaign Against Nukes in Own Backyard.

Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, delivered a landmark speech on July 1 in Kansas City, MO, home to a new facility now under construction for building the non-nuclear components of nuclear warheads. Key points are collected here. Regarding IHL, Archbishop Chullikatt stated, inter alia: “International law and the Church’s Just War principles have always recognized that limitation and proportionality must be respected in warfare. But the very point of a nuclear weapon is to kill massively; the killing and the poisonous radiation cannot be contained (Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobyl are permanent ominous reminders). The social and economic consequences of nuclear war in a world whose life-support systems are intimately interconnected would be catastrophic.” He also said: “Viewed from a legal, political, security and most of all - moral - perspective, there is no justification today for the continued maintenance of nuclear weapons. This is the moment to begin addressing in a systematic way the legal, political and technical requisites for a nuclear-weapons-free world.”

To that end, on October 21, the World Future Council, the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA), for which LCNP is the UN Office, and other groups released the inaugural issue of Nuclear Abolition Forum, founded by LCNP International Coordinator Alyn Ware. LCNP President Peter Weiss, the UN’s Randy Rydell, Global Zero Co-Coordinator Bruce Blair and others examine the humanitarian approach to nuclear disarmament, addressing law, the role of the United Nations, the risks posed by deployment of nuclear forces, campaigning, and divestment. I served as guest editor and contributed an explanation of the Vancouver Declaration. Also included are the opening remarks made by UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Sergio Duarte at the October 21 launch. He said: “I commend Nuclear Abolition Forum not just to all who already support abolition, but to all who still have an open mind to learning what it has to offer, which is considerable.”

LCNP is engaged in many other activities, among them:
• This fall I worked with Reaching Critical Will (see our joint paper) to urge the UN General Assembly to overcome stagnation and revitalize frozen multilateral disarmament machinery, in the spirit of Tahrir Square and Occupy Wall Street. As described in my recent IPS op-ed, there are signs of movement.
• At the initiative of Board member Guy Quinlan, we wrote the State Department urging that it conduct a non-proliferation review of a planned laser uranium enrichment facility in North Carolina. We also wrote the State and Energy Departments stating our opposition to a possible nuclear cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia that would green light nuclear fuel production there.
Board member Charles J. Moxley, Jr., spoke in October on an International Law Association panel, “The Challenge of Nuclear Abolition.” In November, I was a guest lecturer in a Harvard Law School class, “The Problems and Challenges of Disarmament,” and in December I spoke to a Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom seminar in Geneva on “Demilitarizing Security”.
Board member Jonathan Granoff, also President of Global Security Institute, published an article in the Nov/Dec Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, "International humanitarian law and nuclear weapons: irreconcilable differences," based upon the article he, Moxley, and I have in the Fordham International Law Journal. Also in that journal is an article by Peter Weiss on the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention; he additionally has one on that subject in a forthcoming Austrian Review of International and European Law. (Please contact me if you want offprints of the Bulletin and Fordham articles.)

Finally, at a June meeting of IALANA in Szczecin, Poland, led by its Japanese and German affiliates, for the first time IALANA adopted a declaration unequivocally calling for the elimination of both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. This was a position that the Japanese lawyers, shocked by Fukushima, had come to prior to the Szczecin meeting, albeit with some trepidation given Japan’s substantial reliance on nuclear power for generation of electricity. Meanwhile, in the wake of Fukushima the German government reinstated the law providing for the early phase-out of nuclear power.

The world has changed dramatically in the three decades since LCNP was founded in 1981, but nuclear weapons continue to pose an intolerable threat to everyone on the planet. LCNP’s consistent championing of international law has undoubtedly contributed to the growing consensus that nuclear weapons must be abolished. But we need your help; individual donations cover a key part of our modest budget. So please help sustain our work with a generous tax-deductible donation.

Donate online by clicking

or send us a check: LCNP, 866 UN Plaza, Suite 4050, New York, NY 10017. Receive a free copy of Nuclear Abolition Forum with a donation of $50 or more, or purchase at $5 each including S&H.

Best wishes for Happy Holidays and a Peaceful New Year,
John Burroughs, Executive Director

Follow me on Twitter: @johnburroughs


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