A Triumph For World Peace

Read for yourself the words of the International Court of Justice in their Press Communique re the Advisory Opinion responding to the UNGA request. First Strike of nuclear weapons, and indeed just about every imaginable threat of use and use has been adjudged illegal by the International Court of Justice.

International Court of Justice
for immediate release

No. 96/23
8 July 1996



The Hague, 8 July 1996. The International Court of Justice today handed down its Advisory Opinion on the request made by the General Assembly of the United Nations in the above case.

The final paragraph of the Opinion reads as follows:

For these reasons,


(1) By thirteen votes to one,

DECIDES to comply with the request for an advisory opinion;

IN FAVOUR: PRESIDENT Bedjaoui; VICE-PRESIDENT Schwebej, JUDGES Guillaume, Shahabuddeen, Weeramantry, Ranjeva, Herczegh, Shi, Fleischhauer, Koroma, Vereshchetin, Ferrari Bravo, Higgins;


(2) REPLIES in the following manner to the question put by the General Assembly:

A Unanimously,

There is in neither customary nor conventional international law any specific authorisation of the threat or use of nuclear weapons;

B. By eleven votes to three,

There is in neither customary nor conventional international law any comprehensive and universal prohibition of the threat or use of nuclear weapons as such;

IN FAVOUR: PRESIDENT Bedjaoui; VICE-PRESIDENT Schwebel; JUDGES Oda, Guillaume, Ranjeva, Herczegh, Shi, Fleischhauer, Vereshchetin, Ferrari Bravo, Higgins;

AGAINST: JUDGES Shahabuddeen, Veeramantry, Koroma

C. Unanimously,

A threat or use of force by means of nuclear weapons that is contrary to Article 2, paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter and that fails to meet all the requirements of Article 51 is unlawful;

D. Unanimously,

A threat or use of nuclear weapons should also be compatible with the requirements of the international law applicable in armed conflict particularly those of the principles and rules of international humanitarian law, as well as with specific obligations under treaties and other undertakings which expressly deal with nuclear weapons;

E. By seven votes to seven,

It follows from the above-mentioned requirements that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law;

However, in view of the current state of International Law, and of the elements of fact at its disposal, the Court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defence, in which the very survival of a State would be a stake;

IN FAVOUR: PRESIDENT Bedjaoui, JUDGES: Renjeva, Herczegh, Shi, Fleischhauer, Vereschetin, Ferrari Bravo;

AGAINST: VICE-PRESIDENT Schwebel; JUDGES: Oda. Guillaume, Shahabuddeen, Weeramantry, Koroma Higgins.

F. Unanimously,

There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international controlS.

The Court was composed as follows: PRESIDENT Bedjaoui, VICE- PRESIDENT Schwebel; JUDGES Oda, Guillaume, Shahabuddeen, Weeramantry, Ranjeva, Herczegh, Shi, Fleischauer, Koroma, Vereshchetin, Ferrari Bravo, Higgins: REGISTRAR Valencia-Ospina.

PRESIDENT Bedjaoui, JUDGES Herczegh, Shi, Vereshchetin and Ferrari Bravo appended declarations to the Advisory Opinion of the Court; JUDGES Guillaume, Ranjeva and Fleischhauer, Koroma and Higgins appended dissenting opinions.

(A brief summary of the declarations and of the opinions may be found in the annex to this Press Communique.)

The printed text of the Advisory Opinion and the declarations and opinions appended to it will become available in due course (orders and enquires should be addressed to the Distributor and Sales Section, Office of the United Nations, 1211 Geneva, 10. The Sales Section United Nations New York, NT 10017; or any appropriately specialised bookshop).

A summary of the Advisory Opinion is given below. It has been prepared by the Registry for the use of the Press and in no way involves the responsibility of the Court. It cannot be quoted against the text of the Advisory Opinion, of which it does not constitute and interpretation.


Congratulations to the millions internationally who signed a declaration of public conscience and submitted it to the the World Court.

We have been heard.

Congratulations to the dedicated team on the World Court Project Steering Committee Internationally. Your work, particularly in encouraging the Non Aligned Movement to take the question to the UN General Assembly is historic.

Congratulations to New Zealand Magistrate Harold Evans (retd) for your initiation of this project and the work you have persisted in with it for over a decade.

This is a strong endorsement for the international work of Non Governmental Organisations. Three NGOs cooperated to promote Nations supporting the World Court Project. IALANA (International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms), IPPNW (Internation Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War), and IPB (International Peace Bureau). Citizen involvement in international NGO work has here had impact at the highest level of international opinion making inspite of concerted opposition from the United States, United Kingdom, France and Russia.

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Graphic by Jonathon Collins©.