News By/Courtesy: Vidisha Gupta | 09 Apr 2020 18:29pm IST


  • Nuclear Weapons
  • International Humanitarian law. international human rights law
  • Non Proliferation Treaty

The legality of the use of Nuclear Weapons by the states in case of armed conflict and other situations of violence has been a much debated topic since ages. This issue was officially addressed for the first time by the International Court of Justice in the year 1996 when requested by the World Health Organization for an advisory opinion. The ICJ in its advisory opinion stated that:“The danger of nuclear winter, whereby fires from exploded nuclear weapons could release hundreds of millions of tons of soot in the atmosphere, causing huge clouds and debris, blotting out the sun and destroying agriculture. The radiation from nuclear weapons is not containable in space or time and is unique as a source of "continuing danger to human health, even long after its use, given that the half-lives of the by-products of a nuclear explosion last thousands of years.”

 The prime matter of concern in this regards is whether the nuclear weapons may be used in a way which does not lead to the violation of the rules of jus in bello also known as the rules of the International Humanitarian Law. Rules of International Humanitarian Law include to attack only in order to fulfil military objectives and the harms caused to the civilians should not be excessive when compared with the military advantage so gained. Along with the principles of International Humanitarian Law, constraints on the unlawful and disproportionate use of nuclear weapons are imposed by the International Human Rights Law. Of particular relevance are the rights to life, to humane treatment and to a healthy environment under human rights law regime. The primary purposes of such law network are:

  • Protecting combatants as well as noncombatants form unnecessary suffering,
  • Safeguarding the persons who fall into the hands of the enemy
  • Achieving the goal of international peace

There are also numerous conventions, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (‘NPT”) of 1968 dealing with disarmament of Nuclear Weapons. Another complementary treaty to the NPT is the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, 2017. The treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is a milestone international treaty framed with three primary objectives, namely:

  • Prevention of spreading of nuclear weapons and its technology
  • Promotion of cooperation for the peaceful use of nuclear energy
  • Encourage the goal to achieve nuclear – general and complete – disarmament

The use of nuclear weapons was to protect the law and order, as well as the morality in society. However, due to its indiscriminate use and extraneously overwhelming destructive capacity, these weapons can be hardly used to make harmonious relations in line with the most basic values of human civilization. Pursuing peace and security based on the rule of law is necessary for any just society. The international humanitarian law is a standing frame of law that universally identifies it as essential to edge the possibility of war and to preserve peace in the society. It, hence, is the need of the hour today to apply the principles of IHL to nuclear law, to ensure a permanent elimination on use of nuclear weapons. Public disclosure of what such weapons are capable of and what impact they have is very crucial as far as the first step towards elimination is concerned.

Today, leaders all around the world are increasingly pursuing the best was to obtain peace and security for a nuclear weapon-free world. With the widespread innovations in nuclear technology, the legal basis of this pursuit is becoming more gripping. It is high time that the humans of this world realise that the use of nuclear weapons is unlawful as per the customary and long-established principles of international law, while being morally as well as humanly unacceptable.

Section Editor: Pushpit Singh | 09 Apr 2020 20:08pm IST

Tags : Nuclear Weapons, Jus in bello, International law on human rights, Non Proliferation Treaty, Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Legality, Disarmament.

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