This thesis explores the legal rationale and political considerations for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are the most dangerous weapons on earth. Only one can destroy a city, with the potentiality of killing millions and affecting the lives of a whole generation through its lasting calamitous consequences and jeopardising the natural environment. Nuclear weapons are normally classified alongside with chemical and biological weapons as Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and their danger surrounds their very existence. Disarmament has been axiomatically accepted as the best safeguard against their threat, but achieving the aim of disarmament has a tremendously difficult international, socio-legal and political challenge. There are about 22,000 nuclear weapons allegedly remaining in our world today and over 2,000 nuclear tests have been conducted to date. This is to check their functionality by the Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) and to demonstrate to real and potential enemies the potency of their nuclear forces.

Consequently, International Law provides the framework within which States conduct their international affairs, usually accepting certain reciprocal constraints and regulating exceptions raised on nuclear weapons disarmament and for ensuring global peace. However, in as much as the NWS and their allies rely on nuclear weapons as legitimate security protective hedge for self-defence, efforts to ensure nuclear disarmament will invariably suffer from a fundamental contradiction and credibility deficit. This research, which unravels contemporary discourse on nuclear weapons disarmament, is burdened by the globally entrenched nuclear hegemony by the NWS and the looming danger of nuclear crisis across the world such as North Korea and other “rogue States” unbridled nuclear ambitions. The doctrinal legal research methodology is being used in analysing, synthesising and critiquing the legal and political issues associated with the research.

The possession of nuclear weapons and reliance on nuclear deterrence are tangible evidence of nuclear proliferation. The more the world realises the global humanitarian consequences associated with nuclear weapons, the stronger the case and urgent steps needed against them. The nuclear technological threshold is rapidly growing, for political rather than technological purposes. This thesis therefore argues for more effective monitoring and compliance, together with greater enforcement of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament commitments and obligations,especially in accordance with the provisions of the newly emerged Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons(TPNW)for the realisation of the desired objective of a nuclear free world.

As part of the research findings, it is clear that any use of nuclear weapons would violate all the principles of International Humanitarian Law including jus ad bellum (when States are compelled to engage in warfare) and jus in bello (rules of engagement in war). This is as a result of the unthinkable humanitarian emergencies, catastrophic global consequences on the environment, climate, health, social order, human development and economic impacts nuclear weapons would potentially cause. According to the 2002 Rome Statute of International Criminal Court provisions, any use of nuclear weapons would amount to genocide (Article 6), crime against humanity (Article 7) and war crime (Article 8). Still from the research findings, both nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence are arguably described as illegitimate instruments of State policies and they constitute instrumentalities of international lawlessness in the midst of earliest and contemporaneous legal instruments on nuclear disarmament.

The fundamental recommendation arising from this research is that all States at all times need to comply with applicable international law on nuclear disarmament in conformity with the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinions on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons and on the legality of use of nuclear weapons by a State in armed conflict. Significantly, all the Nuclear Weapon States should fulfil their commitments on the 13 practical steps towards disarmament outlined at the 2000 Non-proliferation Treaty Review and Extesion Confenece (NPTREC), for the actualisation of general and complete nuclear disarmament.

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