ICAN disarm

IssueDecember 2009 - January 2010
News by Tim Street

At CND’s International Conference on 10 October, the UK branch of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN-UK) launched its new website (see end of article).

ICAN-UK, which has nine core members, including Medact, CND and the World Court Project UK, aims to abolish nuclear weapons through a nuclear weapons convention (NWC). A NWC would prohibit the development, testing, production, stockpiling, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as the production of fissile material suitable for making them.

What would a nuclear weapons convention look like?

The model NWC contains detailed provisions for national implementation and verification; establishes an international agency responsible for enforcement and dispute settlement; and indicates procedures for reporting and addressing violations. Comparison is made with the existing treaties banning entire categories of weapons such as the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Mine Ban Treaty.

Why call for a nuclear weapons convention now?

In December 2006, at the UN general assembly, 125 governments – including nuclear- armed China, India and Pakistan – called upon states to immediately fulfil their nuclear disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty “by commencing multilateral negotiations leading to an early conclusion on an NWC prohibiting the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat or use of nuclear weapons and providing for their elimination”.

Not only do a majority of states want a NWC, opinion polls demonstrate that a majority of citizens – including those of nuclear weapon states – overwhelmingly want a nuclear-weapons free world. For example, recent polls have shown that the British public supports a global treaty banning nuclear weapons.

Are the UK’s nuclear weapons illegal?

Yes. By continuing to possess nuclear weapons, Britain is failing to comply with its disarmament obligations under Article VI of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which it signed in 1968. In 1996, the international court of justice’s advisory opinion on the use and threatened use of nuclear weapons concluded that both are violations of international law, and the court directed the nuclear powers to implement their Article VI commitments.

What should the UK Government do to advance global nuclear disarmament?

The UK could set the pace within international treaty meetings by agreeing not to replace Trident, then by removing its Trident submarines from patrol and storing the warheads safely ashore. This would represent a truly responsible use of Trident and inspire confidence in the non-proliferation process, making a NWC possible.

Campaign action

Visit the website for more information, sign the petition “No to Trident, Yes to a Nuclear Weapons Convention”, and find out how you can lobby your MP to sign the early day motion in support of a NWC.