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The International Court of Justice and Nuclear Weapons

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image of Nordic Journal of International Law

The request of the UN General Assembly for an advisory opinion on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons put the International Court of Justice in a difficult situation. The difference of the views of judges on the issue and the knowledge that any outright pronouncement on the legality or illegality would disappoint an important section of the Court's clients led to a poorly drafted opinion. The purpose of this article is to briefly comment on the Court's findings. The author believes that the Court has adopted a positivist approach by putting all its efforts into searching for a specific customary or conventional rule prohibiting or permitting use of nuclear weapons. Had it instead focused on the applicability of general principles of law, it would probably have reached a conclusion more consonant with common sense and natural law, namely the illegality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of International Law, Stockholm University


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