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Nuclear Free Local Authorities back international challenge to UK nuclear weapons policies in UN Human Rights Council

Nuclear Free Local Authorities have this week backed a challenge to the British Government’s nuclear weapons policies in the UN Human Rights Council.

The NFLA has joined with international partners in charging that the UK Government’s policy of retaining, and reserving the right to use, a nuclear weapons arsenal is in violation of the Right to Life, a right enshrined in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the UK is a signatory. The NFLA is a partner member of ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

“The destructive power of these weapons is truly frightening, and their primary targets are cities and their civilian populations,” said Councillor David Blackburn, Chair of the NFLA Steering Committee. “Any nation contemplating their use must realise that their victims would be millions of innocent men, women and children peacefully going about their daily lives. In no way can the possession or threat of use by any state be compatible with that state’s obligations under international law to maintain the right to life. The UK is such a nuclear weapon armed state and that is why the NFLA is backing this challenge.”

The report has been submitted to the Human Rights Council by the Basel Peace Office, in cooperation with other civil society organisations, as part of the UN periodic review of the obligations of the United Kingdom under international human rights law, including the ICCPR.

Russia has recently made nuclear threats to the USA and NATO if they intervene in the invasion of Ukraine, whilst in the past a British defence secretary threatened a pre-emptive strike on Russia. Such threats highlight the importance of addressing the risks associated with nuclear deterrence policies. Nine states continue to possess nuclear weapons and maintain the option of initiating nuclear war.

“In times of high tensions involving nuclear-armed and/or allied states, plans and preparations for the use of nuclear weapons elevate the risk of nuclear war which would be a humanitarian catastrophe, severely impacting rights of current and future generations,” says Alyn Ware, Director of the Basel Peace Office. “Compliance with the Right to Life with respect to nuclear weapons is therefore an urgent matter, impacting not the rights of all humanity and of future generations.”

The UK deploys about 160 nuclear warheads (40 on each of their 4 strategic nuclear submarines) which are ready to be fired at any time, including, according to a revised government policy, in response to threats from chemical and biological capabilities or emerging technologies that could have a comparable impact.

In 2018 the UN Human Rights Committee affirmed that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is incompatible with the Right to Life, and that signatories to the ICCPR have obligations to refrain from developing, acquiring, stockpiling and using them, and also have obligations to destroy existing stockpiles and pursue negotiations in good faith to achieve global nuclear disarmament.

he submission makes several recommendations to enable the UK Government to comply with its obligation to maintain the Right to Life. These include adopting no-first-use policies, cancelling plans to renew nuclear weapons systems, taking measures to phase out the role of nuclear weapons in their security doctrines and advancing at the 2022 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference a goal for the global elimination of nuclear weapons by 2045, the 75th anniversary of the NPT.

The submission also highlights the connection between nuclear weapons and climate change, with a recommendation to the UK Government to re-allocate nuclear weapons budgets to renewable energy development and climate action financing.

If the UN Human Rights Council decides to pick up on the challenges and recommendations in the submission and direct these to the UK Government, they are required to respond.

To see the submission to the Human Rights Council please go to this link:

April 5, 2022 - Posted by | politics international, UK, weapons and war

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