Vancouver Peace Forum - June 2006  Part 3


One of the most interesting meetings I attended was entitled "Taking the Bomb back to Court: Prospects for a Return to the International Court of Justice".  The main speakers were Judge Christopher Weeramantry and Peter Weiss.  Judge Weeramantry was on the panel of the original World Court when the ruling about nuclear weapons was made 10 years ago.  He was the main architect of the wording which allowed a deadlock to be broken, otherwise there would have been a stalemate.  This wording states "the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law ... 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."


As this year is the tenth anniversary of the original World Court ruling, Judge Weeramantry is especially anxious to try and achieve an update, as he put it "the loophole of the 'survival of a state would be at stake' needs to be closed".  He was definite that there is no way a nuclear weapon could be used in compliance with any number of rules of Just War or Geneva Conventions, yet he maintains anyone with a physics PhD could make one, and the dangers are increasing all the time.


Peter Weiss is President of the "International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms".  They are working on asking the Judges to consider whether the nuclear states are complying with their Good Faith obligation.  This refers to another section of the 1996 ruling which stated "all states are legally obliged to pursue negotiations in good faith and bring to a conclusion..... nuclear disarmament measures."  As it is self-evident that the nuclear weapons states are doing no such thing, they are approaching non-nuclear states to call for a return to the Court.   They thought about 165 states were in favour, but the names have to be secret at present because otherwise extreme pressure will be brought to bear in advance by the USA government, as happened last time, causing many to back off. 


Another speaker at this meeting was Alyn Ware from New Zealand. He is a lawyer and member of Int. Assoc. of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, and amongst many other things he is the International Coordinator of the Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament.  One of the last events I attended was a round table of the Parliamentary Network.  It was very inspiring to discover they have 400 members in over 70 countries, including Britain. A joint initiative with Mayors for Peace was launched at the NPT Review Conference this year, calling on states party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty to commence negotiations for nuclear disarmament and for the international control of all fissile material.  They have campaigns running to persuade European countries to set a timetable to remove US nuclear weapons from Europe, and to dissuade countries from co-operating on US missile defence plans.  They have an interesting website (though it's a little out of date!) -


Looking again through all my papers to write this makes me wish there were more hours in the day to follow everything up, but at least it is heartening to know so much is going on world-wide.  Next month - The Peace Boat. 


Rosemary Addington