Citation. I.C.J., Advisory Opinion, 1996 I.C.J. 266
Brief Fact Summary. An advisory opinion as to whether states are permitted to use nuclear weapons under international law was placed before the International Court of Justice by the U.N. General Assembly.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Under certain circumstance, threat or use of nuclear weapons is permitted under international law.
Issue. Under certain circumstances, are threats or use of nuclear weapons permitted under international law?
Held. Yes. Under certain circumstance, threat or use of nuclear weapons are permitted under international law. The threat or use of nuclear weapons in all circumstances is not authorized or prohibited by either the customary or conventional international nuclear law.
Under the U.N. Charter, the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be considered legal if all requirements of Article 51 which deals with state’s rights to self-defense are met. However, in whatever the situation can be, a state obligation exists to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspect under strict and effective international control.
Discussion. The idea that despite steps taken by a very large part of the international community towards complete nuclear disarmament, in which no customary rule specifically proscribe the threat or use of nuclear weapons that exists is illustrated by this case. Reservations about the notion that there are no imaginable circumstances warranting their use have been expressed by too many dissenters.