REPORT ON THE
WORLD COURT PROCEEDINGS
Circumstances allowed Ellen Thomas of Proposition One Commitee to deliver a letter from U.S. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, at a series of hearings on the question of the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. The hearings began on October 30, 1995; 21 countries made oral presentations in alphabetical order. The hearings ended on November 15th with Zimbabwe's strong statement, immediately after the U.K. and U.S. arguments. Central players were a coalition of lawyers who had formed the World Court Project and who currently are promoting a fast-growing network, Abolition 2000.
International Court of Justice, which is the highest court in the world, established by the
United Nations to peacefully resolve differences between states in order to avoid war.
Norton's statement was the last document introduced into evidence in the case,
thanks to Zimbabwe's delegate and the World Court Project lawyers who suggested a
paragraph that was included in Zimbabwe's oral presentation. Some friends insisted I go
and paid my way. I'm enclosing some information about that and Abolition 2000, a rapidly
growing network of organizations of all types and sizes who have endorsed a statement
calling for no nuclear weapons by the year 2000. Right up our alley, eh?
The majority of the countries argued that nuclear weapons are illegal for
environmental and human rights agreements and the" rules"(!!??!!) of war, as well as under
a number of existing regional treaties and prior decisions by the Court (including the ban on
chemical weapons, the existence of international/regional nuclear-weapons-free zones --
established in Latin America by the treaty of Tletalolco, in the South Pacific by the Treaty of
Roratonga, and soon in Africa via a treaty-in-process).
The superpowers and a few countries much influenced by U.S. dollars argued that no
international law exists outlawing nuclear weapons, and therefore the Court shouldn't give
an advisory opinion, and of course dropped in the expected "deterrence" excuse. All of the
(to me lame) justifications were answered several times by other countries. It will be very
interesting to see (a) what the judges decide and (b) what happens next. (Big question: will
the U.S. abide by the court's decision?)
A climate more favorable for the elimination of nuclear weapons may be developing.
All this gives us some hope. I will never forget sitting there with my little video/audio
camera running, tears streaming down my face to hear all these elegant delegates from
countries around the world saying the same things we've been saying for so long, often in
the very same words. And when Zimbabwe's speaker began quoting from Norton's letter,
the only thing that could have warmed my heart any more would have been if you and all
our peace family were there too. Truly I felt that in all the world, this was THE place to be.
A decision by the Court is hoped for by January or February, 1996.
* Background * World Court Project * Notes about Oral Testimonies *
* Zimbabwe Has The Last Word * Norton letter * HR-1647 *
* Proposition One letter to Judges * Zimbabwe's Full Testimony * Abolition 2000 *
* Current Events *