The Legality of the Use of Nuclear Weapons

Posted on December 11, 2013 by joleneh340  (excerpts)

The damage caused by the atomic bomb is the result of an intense heat wave from the explosion, pressure from the resulting shock wave, radiation, and radiation fallout (clouds of particles falling back towards the earth). At the hypocenter everything is immediately vaporized by high temperatures of up to 500 million degrees Fahrenheit; outwards from the center, casualties are the result of burns from heat, injuries from the falling debris of collapsing buildings, and acute exposure to radiation. Radiation fallout occurs over a wider area because of prevailing winds and can then enter the water supply or be inhaled/ingested.

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The ICRC notes that the “destructive power of nuclear weapons cannot be limited in either space or time; the radiation released can affect health, agriculture, natural resources, and populations over a very wide area and constitute a serious danger for future generations.” Specifically nuclear weaponry can cause health conditions including, but not limited to, nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, cataracts, hair loss, loss of blood cells, leukemia, cancer, infertility, and birth defects. In the five years following the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings, the number of initial deaths nearly doubled to more than 300,000 people.

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Nuclear weapons, in the long-term impact of their use, cause unnecessary suffering. Judge Weeramantry, in his dissenting opinion of the ICJ advisory opinion on the use of nuclear weapons acknowledged the prohibition against causing unnecessary suffering. He stated that:

“…The nuclear weapon caused death and destruction; induced cancers, leukemia, keloids and related afflictions; caused gastro intestinal, cardiovascular and related afflictions; continued, for decades after its use, to induce the health-related problems mentioned above; damaged the environmental rights of future generations; caused congenital deformities, mental retardation and genetic damage; carried the potential to cause a nuclear winter; contaminated and destroyed the food chain; imperiled the eco-system; produced lethal levels of heat and blast; produced radiation and radioactive fall-out; produced a disruptive electromagnetic pulse; produced social disintegration; imperiled all civilization; threatened human survival; wreaked cultural devastation; spanned a time range of thousands of years; threatened all life on the planet; irreversibly damaged the rights of future generations; exterminated civilian populations; damaged neighboring States; produced psychological stress and fear syndromes – as no other weapons do…”

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Environment/Objects for Human Survival:

Article 54 of Protocol I calls for the protection of objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, specifically prohibiting the attack, destruction, removal, or rendering useless foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations/supplies and irrigation systems.  Article 55 calls for the protection of the natural environment, stating: “Care shall be taken in warfare to protect the natural environment against widespread, long-term, and severe damage,” prohibiting the use of methods or means of warfare which cause damage to the environment and thereby prejudice the health or survival of the population.

As noted in the above section, the use of nuclear weapons can contaminate food and water supplies, and consequently continue to inflict harm on civilian populations for decades following the attack. Today in Japan, there is still concern about the levels of radiation in food and water supplies, more than 60 years after the 1945 nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This renders the use of nuclear weapons unlawful under article 54 of Protocol I. Moreover, as noted by in the dissenting opinion of Judge Weeramantry, the use of nuclear weapons causes serious and lasting damage to the environment, in violation of article 55 of Protocol I. Given the damage caused to environment and the lack of protection of objects indispensable to the survival of civilian population, the use of nuclear weapons is unlawful.