Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, Advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (Request for Advisory Opinion by the General Assembly of the United Nations)
The International Court of Justice complied with the request for an advisory opinion by the United Nations General Assembly, and delivered its opinion by a vote of thirteen to one. The wording of the question by the General Assembly was: “Is the threat or use of nuclear weapons in any circumstance permitted under international law?” The Court received written statements by a number of States as well as oral statements in public sittings. It interpreted the mayor international Treaties referring to Nuclear issues and conflicts as well as related Court decisions and finally replied in the following manner to the question put by the General Assembly: 1. There is in neither customary nor conventional international law any specific authorization of the threat or use of nuclear weapons; (Unanimously). 2. There is in neither customary nor conventional international law any comprehensive and universal prohibition of the threat or use of nuclear weapons as such; (By eleven votes to three). 3. 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; (Unanimously). 4. 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: (Unanimously). 5. 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. 6. 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-defense, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake; (By seven votes to seven, by the President’s casting vote). 7. 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 control; (Unanimously).