International Law Experts letter on Trident Replacement

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International Law Experts letter on Trident Replacement in The Guardian
on Monday 27th November 2006

The following letter was co-ordinated by Peacerights
Dear Sir,

Jack Straw states "only a simpleton could think replacing Trident would
breach the nuclear non-proliferation treaty" Guardian, Friday 24th. We
would remind Mr Straw of the United Kingdom's obligations under Article
VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which states: "Each
of the parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good
faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms
race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament and on a treaty on
general and complete disarmament under strict and effective control."

Those obligations were set out by Rabinder Singh QC and Professor
Christine Chinkin in an opinion for Peacerights last December. We
?simpletons? concur with their opinion that the replacement of Trident
would constitute a material breach of Article VI.

In the 'Nuclear Weapons Case' (1996), the International Court of Justice
emphasised that Article VI of the NPT imposes an obligation to achieve a
precise result, nuclear disarmament in all its aspects, by adopting a
particular course of conduct, the pursuit of negotiations on the matter
in good faith. The Court unanimously held: "There exists an obligation
to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading
to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective
international control".

It is difficult to see how unilateral action that pre-empts any
possibility of an outcome of nuclear disarmament can be consistent with
the Article VI obligation to pursue disarmament negotiations in good
faith and bring them to a successful conclusion.

The future of Trident must be determined in accordance with the United
Kingdom's obligations under international law. Because of their blast,
heat and especially their radiation effects, the use of nuclear weapons
in any realistic military scenario would violate the requirements of the
international law applicable in armed conflict, particularly the
principles and rules of international humanitarian law. It is an
intransgressible principle of international humanitarian law that States
must never use weapons that are incapable of distinguishing between
combatants and non-combatants.

Professor Nick Grief

Professor of Law, Bournemouth University

Bill Bowring
Barrister, Professor of Law
Birkbeck College, University of London

Professor Ken Booth
EH Carr Professor of International Politics
University of Wales, Aberystwyth
Professor Iain Scobbie
School of Law, SOAS
Solange Mouthaan
Warwick Law School
Professor Stephen Chan
Professor of International Relations and Foundation Dean of Law and
Social Sciences, SOAS, University of London
Professor Wade Mansell
Law School, University of Kent