International humanitarian law and the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons

The Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice represents the first time that the Court's judges have been called upon to analyse in some detail rules of international humanitarian law. Other instances, for example, the Nicaragua case, involved nowhere near such an extensive analysis. The Advisory Opinion is therefore of particular interest in that it contains important findings on the customary nature of a number of humanitarian law rules and interesting pronouncements on the interpretation of these rules and their relationship with other rules. Most judges based their final decision on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons on teleological interpretations of the law, choosing either the right of self-defence as being the most fundamental value, or the survival of civilization and the planet as a whole as paramount.

About the author

Louise Doswald-Beck
LL.M. (London), is deputy head of the ICRC Legal Division.