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Redressing a Wrong Question: the 1977 Protocols additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the Issue of Nuclear Weapons

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 May 2009

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It is sometimes argued that States who do not want to see the legal regime concerning nuclear weapons altered, will have, for precisely that reason, serious difficulties in ratifying the 1977 Protocol additional to the Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949, especially Protocol I relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts.

Shorter Articles
Copyright © T.M.C. Asser Press 1986

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1. The Moscow Test-ban-Treaty of 5 August 1963 remains up to now the most serious attempt to restrict in certain cases the use of nuclear weapons, e.g., in the test phase, though one should not underestimate the significance of the Antarctic Treaty of 1 December 1959 and the Tlatelolco Treaty of 14 February 1967 which, being of concern to specific regions, did not, however, alter this general regime. See Chapuis, F., La limitation des armements en droit international public (1975)Google Scholar. Reference, of course, is also to be made to the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1 July 1968, the Outer-Space-Treaty of 27 January 1967 and the Sea-Bed-Treaty of 11 February 1971, all of which geographically speaking limit the spread of nuclear weapons but do not in the true sense restrict their use. This article does not intend to discuss any issue concerning arms control since this is felt to be outside its scope.

2. Sandoz, Y., Des armes interdites en droit de la guerre (1975) pp. 6264.Google ScholarSchwarzenberger, G. points to the radiation and fall-out effects in The Legality of Nuclear Weapons (1958) p. 48Google Scholar. See also Singh, Nagendra, Nuclear Weapons-and International Law (1959) pp. 163165Google Scholar; Brownlie, I., ‘Some Legal Aspects of the Use of Nuclear Weapons’, 14 ICLQ (1965) pp. 441442CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Falk, R. et al. , ‘Nuclear Weapons and International Law’, 20 Indian JIL (1980) pp. 561564Google Scholar; MacBride, S., The Threat of Nuclear War, Illegality of Deployment of Nuclear Weapons, Opinion (1983) pp. 811Google Scholar; and the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy's, Statement on the Illegality of Nuclear Warfare (1984) p. 5Google Scholar.

3. For these documents, see Schindler, D. and Toman, J., eds., The Laws of Armed Conflicts, A Collection of Conventions, Resolutions and Other Documents (1973)Google Scholar.

4. E.g., Bothe, M. et al. , New Rules for Victims of Armed Conflicts (1982) p. 522.Google Scholar

5. Kalshoven, F. refers in his Belligerent Reprisals (1971), to the requirements of ‘objectivity, subsidiarity, and proportionality’ (pp. 29 et seq and 340 et seq.)Google Scholar.

6. E.g., Fujita, H., ‘Réconsidération de l'Affaire Shimoda’, The Military Law of War Review, vol. 19 (1980) p. 89 et seq.Google Scholar

7. The passage was worded as follows: ‘Problems relating to atomic, bacteriological and chemical warfare are subjects of international agreements or negotiations by governments, and in submitting these draft Additional Protocols the ICRC does not intend to broach those problems’; International Committee of the Red Cross, Draft Protocols to the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949 (1973) p. 2Google Scholar.

8. Diplomatic Conference on Humanitarian Law, Official Records, vol. 16 (1978) p. 188.Google Scholar

9. Ibid. vol. 14, p. 441. A similar statement supporting the view of the International Committee of the Red Cross had already been made by the United Kingdom; ibid. vol 5, p. 134.

10. Ibid. vol. 8, pp. 193 (France), 295 (USA) and 303 (United Kingdom).

11. 38Zeitschrift für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht (1978) pp. 157 and 159Google Scholar.

12. For Sweden, see Regeringensproposition 1978:77, p. 37; for Norway, see Stortingsmelding no. 102 (19781979) p. 8Google Scholar; for Switzerland, sar see Message concernant les Protocols additionels aux Conventions de Genève, 81.004, pp. 16, 20, 86.

13. See also, S. E. Nahlik, ‘Le probleme des sanctions en droit humanitaire’, and Reimann, H. B., ‘Menschenrechtsstandard in Bewaffneten Konflikten’, both in Studies and Essays on International Humanitarian Law and Red Cross Principles in Honour of Jean Pictet (1984) pp. 471 et seq., and 779 et seq., respectivelyGoogle Scholar.