Nuclear Weapons and Human Rights

The use or the threat of nuclear weapons is a violation of human rights, the United Nations concluded: On October 30, 2018, the UN Human Rights Committee adopted a new General comment No. 36 (2018) on article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), on the right to life, which concludes that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is incompatible with the Right to Life and may amount to a crime under international law.

According to the General Comment (paragraph 3), the Right to Life, as codified in Article 6 of the Covenant, is an ‘entitlement of individuals to be free from acts and omissions that are intended or may be expected to cause their unnatural or premature death, as well as to enjoy a life with dignity’, and that this is a ‘supreme right from which no derogation is permitted even in situations of armed conflict and other public emergencies which threatens the life of the nation.’ This right is ‘the prerequisite for the enjoyment of all other human rights.’

Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.
Article 6 (para 1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In addition to its conclusion that the threat or use of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are a violation of the Right to Life, General Comment 36 affirms an obligation of States Parties to the Covenant to end the production of WMD, destroy existing stockpiles and provide adequate reparation to victims of their testing or use.

The threat or use of weapons of mass destruction, in particular nuclear weapons, which are indiscriminate in effect and are of a nature to cause destruction of human life on a catastrophic scale is incompatible with respect for the right to life and may amount to a crime under international law.
States parties must take all necessary measures to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including measures to prevent their acquisition by non-state actors, to refrain from developing, producing, testing, acquiring, stockpiling, selling, transferring and using them, to destroy existing stockpiles, and to take adequate measures of protection against accidental use, all in accordance with their international obligations.
They must also respect their international obligations to pursue in good faith negotiations in order to achieve the aim of nuclear disarmament under strict and effective international control and to afford adequate reparation to victims whose right to life has been or is being adversely affected by the testing or use of weapons of mass destruction, in accordance with principles of international responsibility
Paragraph 66, General Comment No 36 on article 6 of the ICCPR

The new General Comment is extremely significant because of the comprehensive legal condemnation it provides on threat, use, production and possession of nuclear weapons and other WMD, and because the States Parties to the Covenant include most of the nuclear armed States and their allies under extended nuclear deterrence doctrines.

Following the adoption of General Comment 36, the World Future Council, Basel Peace Office, and various partners have made submissions on nuclear weapons policies of some of the nuclear armed and allied states that have come up for review in various UN treaty bodies, in particular the Human Rights Committee (for review of the ICCPR), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (for review of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) and the Human Rights Council (for the Universal Periodic Review which includes human rights obligations from all human rights treaties and the UN Charter).

Please note: This post contains excerpts from articles by our Councillor Alyn Ware. His articles are linked above.