PHYSICIANS for SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
PRESS STATEMENT ON WORLD COURT DECISION
For Immediate Release: July 8, 1996
Contact: Christopher Hellman (202) 898-0150, Ext. 231
or Patricia Savage, Ext. 247
Physicians Group Responds to World Court Ruling on Nuclear
Urges Weapons States to Immediately Begin Negotiations
to Eliminate Nuclear Arsenals
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today the nuclear disarmament group
Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) commended the
advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice
(ICJ) which effectively makes the use of nuclear weapons a
violation of international law. PSR is the U.S. affiliate of the
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
(IPPNW), recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.
"The Court has stated that the threat or use of nuclear weapons
must be compatible with the principles and rules of international
humanitarian law," said Robert K. Musil, Ph.D., Executive
Director of PSR. "As physicians, our members know first-hand
that nuclear weapons are not humane. They are indiscriminate and
immoral weapons which cause tremendous suffering, radiation
sickness and death."
The ICJ, also known as the World Court, received two requests to
render the advisory opinion on the legality of nuclear weapons,
one by the World Health Organization and a second by the U.N.
General Assembly. IPPNW successfully petitioned the World Health
Organization to seek an advisory opinion from the ICJ in 1993.
The Court began hearing oral arguments on the matter at The Hague
in October 1995.
The Court issued a split decision stating in part that "the
threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to
the rules of international law...and in particular the principles
and rules of humanitarian law." The Court also stated
unanimously that under international law, the nuclear weapons
nations are obliged to "bring to a conclusion negotiations
leading to nuclear disarmament."
"Given the Court's composition, which includes judges from all
five of the declared nuclear powers, a split decision comes as no
real surprise," said Chris Hellman, Senior Policy Analyst at PSR.
"What is significant is the Court's unanimous view that the
threat or use of nuclear weapons is contrary to the principles of
humanitarian law and that international law binds nations to
achieve nuclear disarmament."
"The nuclear weapons states should begin negotiations to ban
nuclear weapons, as we have done for chemical and biological
weapons," said Hellman. "As a first step the U.S. and Russia
should immediately negotiate a START III treaty to further reduce
their nuclear arsenals, with an eye towards the eventual
elimination of nuclear weapons."
Journalists interested in receiving a summary of the ICJ Advisory
Opinion may contact PSR.
Physicians for Social Responsibility is a membership-based non-governmental agency formed in 1961 to end nuclear testing and work for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
ICJ Opinion Page