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"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004
Human Rights Body Condemns WMD


The interpretative body of a major human rights treaty called the use or threat of use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), including nuclear weapons, “incompatible with the respect for the right to life,” adding that it may be a “crime under international law,” in new commentary adopted Oct. 30 on the treaty’s implementation. The Human Rights Committee is composed of international experts who monitor implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which has 172 states-parties, including all nuclear-armed countries except China, which is a signatory.

The commentary, coupled with the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, reflects a “new, more human-centered trend towards nuclear disarmament,” Daniel Rietiker, an adjunct professor of international law and human rights at the University of Lausanne, wrote in a blog post Nov. 7. But several nuclear-armed states argued when the commentary was being considered that weapons of mass destruction were beyond the scope of the ICCPR. The new commentary also asserts that states-parties must stop WMD proliferation, destroy existing stockpiles, respect obligations to pursue good faith negotiations on nuclear disarmament, and provide “reparations” to victims of nuclear weapons use and testing.

The last comment from the Human Rights Committee on nuclear weapons was in 1984, which stated that nuclear weapons “are among the greatest threats to the right of life which confront mankind today” and that their use “should be considered” a crime against humanity.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE