The use of nuclear weapons under rules governing the conduct of hostilities
Nuclear weapons under international law
Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2014
This chapter focuses on the legality of the use of nuclear weapons under three core rules of international humanitarian law (IHL): distinction, proportionality and precautions in attacks. The International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s Nuclear Weapons Advisory Opinion, issued in 1996, is naturally a primary frame of reference. Given, however, that the Court did not discuss either proportionality or precautions in attacks, and that its assessment of distinction was limited to international armed conflict, discussion in this chapter is not restricted to the Court’s assessment of the application of IHL. The chapter opens with a review of the fundamental principle whereby parties to an armed conflict do not have an ‘unlimited right’ to select and use means or methods of warfare. It then looks in turn at the IHL rules of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack, considering their particular relevance for, and application to, the use of nuclear weapons.