Blog Post

LOOKING BACK AND LOOKING AHEAD: The 25th anniversary of the 1996 ICJ Advisory Opinion on the Legality of Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons!



8 July 2021
11am - 2pm Easten Time USA (EDT). 5pm-8pm Central European Time (CEST)
Hosted by the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms
Click here to register

Basel Peace Office welcomes this important anniversary event organised by the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA), and encourages you to join the event. Two of our board members - Daniel Rietiker and Alyn Ware are amongst the speakers (see the program below). 

On 8 July 1996, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) handed down its Advisory Opinion on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. It was the first authoritative international judicial opinion on nuclear weapons since their development in the 1940s.

The ICJ affirmed that "the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law," but with a caveat that "the Court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defence, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake."

The Court also affirmed 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 anniversary webinar
In this anniversary event, leading international lawyers and activists, professors of international law and experts on arms control and disarmament law will discuss the importance of the Advisory Opinion and its relevance for the present day struggle towards nuclear disarmament. 

The webinar will also address more recent developments, such as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and General Comment no. 36 on the right to life of the UN Human Rights Committee. Finally, it will address the question of what lessons can be drawn from the opinion regarding achievement of a world without nuclear weapons. 

Inspiration for an ICJ case on climate change
The 1996 ICJ advisory opinion has provided precedent, supportive legal arguments and inspiration for a number of subsequent legal actions and initiatives, inlcuding a new campaign from the World's Youth for Climate Justice and Normandy Chair for Peace to take the issue of climate change to the ICJ. For more information see the animated video introduction to ICJ and the Climate campaign and the facebook recordings of the recent webinar on the initiative at Session A (Americas/Europe/Africa) and Session B (Asia/Pacific). 

July 8 Program 

1st Session: Looking Back: General Discussion of the Advisory Opinion
  • Opening and Introductory Remarks, Phon van den Biesen,  Attorney at Law in Amsterdam, Co-President IALANA
  • The Ongoing Significance of the Nuclear Weapons Advisory Opinion, Christine ChinkinEmeritus Professor of International Law, London School of Economics (LSE)
  • The Legal Effect of Advisory Opinions, Paolo PalchettiProfessor of International Law, Université de Paris (Sorbonne 1)
  • General Observations, Peter WeissPresident Emeritus IALANA
  • The World Court Project. Alyn WareFormer Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy; Global Coordinator, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, Director of the Basel Peace Office
  • Video Message from Hiroshima. Takeya SasakiCo-president IALANA

2nd Session: Looking Ahead: Current and Future Trends
  • Opening and Introductory Remarks, John BurroughsSenior Analyst, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, and Vice President IALANA
  • Nuclear Weapons and Human Rights, Daniel RietikerInternational Law Lecturer, Lausanne University, Co-President IALANA, Board Member of the Basel Peace Office
  • Observations re Previous Presentation, Manfred Mohr, Professor of International Law, Board Member IALANA Germany
  • Video Message from JALANA, Kenichi OkuboPresident JALANA
  • Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Amela SkiljanVice-chair of IALANA Germany, PhD candidate
  • Closing Remarks, Phon van den BiesenAttorney at Law in Amsterdam, Co-President IALANA

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