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NATO attempting to exclude use of nuclear weapons from list of war crimes
Kate Dewes and Rob Green - 05/12/97

On 8 December at a UN meeting to establish an International Criminal Court, NATO will attempt to exclude use of nuclear weapons but not chemical and biological weapons, from the new court's list of war crimes. New Zealand, with Switzerland and the Red Cross, has proposed alternative wording which covers all weapons of mass destruction without specifying them.
NATO is pressing New Zealand to drop this too.

Contempt for international law
In so doing, NATO is showing contempt for the 1996 Advisory Opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in which New Zealand argued that nuclear weapons are illegal. It is also drawing attention to an extraordinary anomaly: chemical and biological weapons are banned by specific treaties, but nuclear weapons are not - yet nuclear weapons are in many respects far worse.

The ICJ concluded that the threat, let alone use, of nuclear weapons would generally breach international humanitarian law. The ICJ President Judge Bedjaoui warned: "I cannot insist strongly enough that the inability of the Court to go further...cannot in any way be interpreted (his emphasis) as itself evidence of a half-open door for the recognition of the legal permissibility of using nuclear weapons."

NATO's own definition
In a powerful personal opinion, the current ICJ Vice-President, Judge Weeramantry, revealed that NATO itself defines a nuclear weapon as any weapon "designed to contain or utilise nuclear fuel or radioactive isotopes and which, by explosion or other uncontrolled nuclear transformation... is capable of mass destrucion, mass injury or mass poisoning"

Rule of law won by a determined stand against colossal forces
He also commented: "The forces ranged against the view of illegality are truly colossal. However, ... (it) has been by a determined stand against forces that seemed colossal or irresistible that the rule of law has been won. "

NATO must acknowledge that use of nuclear weapons would be a war crime.
Ex-British Navy Commander Robert Green, the Peace Foundation's International Representative, comments: "NATO must not get away with its outrageous pretence that use of nuclear weapons would not be a war crime. A recent report from the US National Academy of Sciences stated: '...(n)uclear weapons are in a class by themselves... Weight for weight, chemical weapons are far less effective than nuclear weapons in causing fatalities and lack their immense physical destructiveness...' Only nuclear weapons can destroy civilisation."

Cdr Green adds: "In 1958, Dr Albert Schweitzer called for those struggling for the abolition of nuclear weapons to use the 'most elementary and obvious argument... No government can deny that these weapons violate international law... and international law cannot be swept aside!'
Next week, NATO will try to do just that.

New Zealand must stand firm on prohibition of nuclear weapons.
"It is vital that New Zealand stands firm with the rest of the world against NATO."

Governments must not flout the will of their people.
Recent US and UK opinion polls both showed 87% in favour of their governments negotiating an enforceable global treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.

Their governments are about to flout international law and the will of the people, and encourage any prospective users of nuclear weapons, like the Serb war criminal, Karrozic, by granting them immunity from prosecution in the new War Crimes Court.

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