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095- Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapon

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) was seized by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to give an advisory opinion on the question: “Is the threat or use of nuclear weapons in any circumstance permitted under international law ?

The ICJ first ensured it had  jurisdiction to give such opinion and that there were no compelling reason to refrain from doing so. Having identified no reason that could prevent it from answering to the request, the Court examined the matter taking into account conventional international law and customary international law. It concluded that neither of these two sets of rules specifically authorizes nor prohibits the threat or use of nuclear weapons in a comprehensive and universal manner. However, the threat or use of nuclear weapons had to abide by the principles set out in Articles 2, paragraph 4 and 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, as well as all the rules relating to armed conflicts and in particular humanitarian law. The Court also considered the hypothesis of resorting to the threat or use of nuclear weapons in the most extreme cases of self-defence, when the very survival of a state is at stake. In that instance, the court could not definitively deem lawful or unlawful the threat or use of nuclear weapons. Finally, the ICJ underlined the need to conduct negotiations in good faith that could lead to total nuclear disarmament.

Advisory Opinion of 08-07-1996.pdf

This summary is provided for informational purposes only, does not involve the responsibility of Dome and should in no way be used as a substitute for a careful reading of the judgment and order of the case.

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