Abolition 2000 – Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons

International Law Working Group

The group works to raise the profile of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), laws of peace and security, environmental law, human rights law, rights of future generations and other sources of law applicable to nuclear weapons.

The illegality of the threat and use of nuclear weapons has been affirmed by the International Court of Justice in 1996, the Vancouver Declaration: Law’s Imperative for the Urgent Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World (2011) and more recently in the International People’s Tribunal on Nuclear Weapons and Human Civilisation which was held in Sydney, Australia July 8-9, 2016.

The group also considers legal mechanisms for abolishing nuclear weapons such as national legislation, legal challenges in courts, and treaty negotiations including on a ban treaty, nuclear weapons convention and/or a framework of legal agreements.


The 2010 Nuclear NPT Review Conference expressed its “deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons” and reaffirmed “the need for all states at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law”.

Since then, there have been consistent calls drawing attention to the catastrophic consequences of nuclear war, the need to obviate this through the global abolition of nuclear weapons, and the role of IHL in achieving this. Some examples are:

  • In November 2011 the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movements adopted a resolution on the irreconcilability of nuclear weapons with international humanitarian law and called for States to negotiate a global ban on nuclear weapons.
  • At the 2012 Vienna Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee presented a joint statement on the “humanitarian dimension of nuclear disarmament” sponsored by 16 governments.  insisted that all NPT parties, “especially the nuclear weapon States, [should] give increasing attention to their commitment to comply with international law and international humanitarian law.” It concluded by calling on states to “intensify their efforts to outlaw nuclear weapons and achieve a world free of nuclear weapons”.
  • A statement at the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly during the current session calls on all nations to “intensify their efforts to outlaw nuclear weapons and achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.” Thirty-five nations signed on to the statement, which discusses the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.
  • Several state legislatures have passed resolutions stressing the catastrophic consequence of nuclear war, calling for a Nuclear Weapons Convention and emphasising the central role of IHL.

IHL provides the context for the Criminality of Nuclear Weapons Campaign which also invokes the moral dictates of the Public Conscience.

We have come to realise that IHL, which codifies the legal restrictions on armed conflict, will not be enough in itself to achieve our wider aims.  The governments of the nuclear-armed states complacently and misleadingly argue that its applicability to nuclear weapons has already been settled by the ICJ. However, other strands of law, especially International Human Rights Law IHRL augment this.  In recent years legal academics have explored the connections and overlaps between these two sources of law.  We are also taking into account the proposed law of Ecocide, Crimes against Future Generations, and the Environmental Modification Convention, international laws of peace and security, and international environmental law.

Our working group is very aware that Abolition 2000 is a campaigning group.  We shall therefore not be mired down by the legal quibbles sometimes raised by the nuclear-armed states.  We are quite willing to proceed on the basis that they are illegal and therefore need to be banned.  Our purpose is to make the legal elements involved in the path to nuclear abolition available to activists and the public.


John Burroughs, Alyn Ware, Aaron Tovish, Rob van Riet, Andrew Lichterman, Manfred Mohr, Roslyn Cook, Matt Robson, Daniel Rietiker, Waheed Ahmad, Muna Makhamreh.