The World Court Project

The danger of an instant and terminal nuclear holocaust has fortunately receded, at least for the present. However, the danger that one or a few nuclear bombs will be used has probably never been higher since Nagasaki, and continues to rise. U.S. policy appears to be to try to dominate the world for the indefinite future, and to decide which countries may and which may not have nuclear weapons. This will not work. As Erich Geitinget of Aotearoa/New Zealand writes: “The notion that a judicious mixture of threats and promises, cash and new technologies, covert action and secret deals, combined with assiduous door to door selling of the American way of life, will persuade the world to leave nukes in Uncle Sam’s capable hands, is a dangerous misreading of post-Cold War reality.”

The World Court Project is an international citizens’ initiative to outlaw nuclear weapons by requesting an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice at The Hague. There is good legal eaeon to believe that if the question is put, the Court will give the opinion that the Weapons are contrary to the laws of war. To this end we shall be protOtinq resolutions during 1993 in both the World Health Assembly (May). and the U.N. General Assembly (Sept).

The founding sponsors of the Project are the International Peace Bureau (IPB), the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA), and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). Many Canadian peace groups including Science for Peace are co-sponsors in this country.

In 1987 a retired Aotearoa judge, Harold Evans, wrote to the prime Ministers of Australia and Aotearoa, asking them to start the process. The idea had-the personal approval of Prime Minister David Lange, though not the support of his government. Other means had to be found, and a number of nations are now willing to co-sponsor a request to the Court. The world-wide project reached the stage of a public launching in Geneva in April 1992. At that time, an effort to put the matter On the agenda of the World Health Assembly was defeated by U.S. lobbying.

Since then a campaign has been continued on both government and citizen levels. At the government level, a_ lobbying office has been set up in New York to make contacts with delegations to the U.N. from many nations. The project has also been discutted in a private meeting with the U.N. Secretary-General. A motion is on the agenda for the World Health Assembly for May 1993.

At the citizen level, the World Court Project sets out to change public opinion so that the very thought of nuclear weapons would become as abhorrent to the people of the World as are chemical and biological weapons, against the use of which there are already treaties: Public opinion is a crucial force in this cause because the Hague and Geneva Conventions, signed by world leaders in 1897, 1907, 1949 and 1977, forbid inhumane acts and practices in war; they had the foresight to anticipate weapons not then invented. The “De Martens” clause states that when a weapon or tactic of war is not specifically prohibited, the “dictates of public conscience Shall

The plan is to deliver a very: large number of “Declarations of Conscience to the World Court. A million signatures does not seem an impossible goal: We are asking individuals to sign a statement that the use. of nuclear weapons would be abhorrent and morally wrong.

If you agree, please sign, tear off, and mail the “Declaration” from the enclosed WCP brochure, but first take some photocopies and ask friends and colleagues to sign also. (There is no need to use this specific form of words, but there is no advantage in making it longer. It will be the lawyers who argue the case; individuals need only ‘state their conviction.)

Those of you who think, that the cold war, the arms race, and consequently the Strategic Defence Initiative is over might be interested in the following information taken from the “Disarmament Newsletter – Newsletter of World Disarmament Campaign” United Nations Vol. 10, No.3 – June 1992.