Launch of Nuclear Taboo: From Norm to Law

Launch of Nuclear Taboo: From Norm to Law,
A Declaration of Public Conscience.

On November 17, 2022, the G20 Leaders meeting in Bali (including leaders or foreign ministers of China, France, India, Russia, UK and USA) surprised the world by agreeing that “The threat of use or use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible” and including this in the G20 Bali Leaders Declaration.

This agreement arose from concerns on all sides about the potential for the Russia/Ukraine war to escalate into a nuclear war between Russia and the West. It indicates a possible breakthrough in consolidating a general norm against the use of nuclear weapons that is now accepted, at least on paper, by the main nuclear-weapon-states.

However, it is uncertain how solid is this norm, whether or not it will be re-affirmed in the upcoming G7 Summit in Hiroshima (May 19-21) and the G20 Summit in Delhi (September 9-10), and whether or not it will have any real impact on policies and practices of the nuclear-armed states, including nuclear-first-use options

In order to consolidate the norm and help shift this to accepted law, NoFirstUse Global today launches Nuclear Taboo: From Norm to Law – a Declaration of Public Conscience, and invites you to endorse.

This Declaration of Public Conscience (also available in French) calls on the United Nations, through decisions of its Security Council and General Assembly, to enshrine the inadmissibility of threat or use of nuclear weapons as a Dictate of International Law, and to require all member states to comply fully, by ensuring their security policies and practices rule-out the initiation of nuclear war including any first-use of nuclear weapons.

What is a Dictate of Public Conscience?

A Dictate of Public Conscience is an application of law to weapons systems, the use of which would violate the principles of international humanitarian law even if such weapons systems are not subject to a universal and comprehensive abolition treaty/agreement.

The concept is included in the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, as proposed by Fedorovich (Friedrich) Martens, a Russian jurist and diplomat, and supported by Czar Nicholas II, the Leader of Russia who initiated the first Hague Peace Conference. It is commonly known as the Martens Clause.

“Until a more complete code of the laws of war is issued, the High Contracting Parties think it right to declare that in cases not included in the Regulations adopted by them, populations and belligerents remain under the protection and empire of the principles of international law, as they result from the usages established between civilized nations, from the laws of humanity and the dictates of the public conscience.

Drafted by Fedorovich (Friedrich) Martens, a Russian jurist and diplomat.
Codified in the Hague Conventions 1899 and 1907.

Uses of the Dictates of Public Conscience

This concept of Dictates of Public Conscience was utilised in the 1996 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons. Civil society campaigners presented to the Court over 6 million Declarations of Conscience condemning nuclear weapons and the Court’s decision on the general illegality of nuclear weapons referred to the concept.

NoFirstUse Global will use the Nuclear Taboo: From Norm to Law Declaration of Public Conscience in advocacy to the G7 and G20 Summits as well as to the UN General Assembly and the UN Summit of the Future.