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United Nations Adopts Historic Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

At approximately 11AM on July 7, 2017, following a recorded vote of 122 states in favor, 1 opposed (Netherlands in opposition, on behalf of all NATO states), and 1 abstention (Singapore), Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gomez, Costa Rican Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, and President of the “United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination,” announced the adoption of this treaty, which had been awaited for 70 years, the legally binding norm prohibiting nuclear weapons. 

Following Ambassador Whyte’s announcement, the entire assembly of ambassadors, other delegates and non-government organizations in Conference Room 1 immediately stood, many embraced and all 122 States in support exultantly applauded this historic and long overdue achievement by the majority of member states of the United Nations, none of whom possess nuclear weapons, and all of whom are unified in seeking to end the reign of terror imposed on the world by certain of the states possessing nuclear weapons.

It is surprising that the U.S., the U.K. and France have issued a statement flaunting their violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty: they are required by Article 6 of that treaty “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control,” which is precisely what the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons constitutes.

The authors of this press statement evidently consider themselves above international law, and not beholden to any legal restrictions on their use of force. With this press statement, the US, the UK and France have forfeited moral legitimacy, and as permanent members of the Security Council are divested of any authority to sanction North Korea. Further, they should themselves be sanctioned for their violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Their indifference to this new treaty’s basis in international humanitarian law, one of the treaty’s pillars, gives the lie to their pretense of concern for humanitarian considerations which they frequently cite, deceptively, during their speeches at the Security Council.

But July 7, 2017 will remain a pivotal date in the history of the United Nations, the day on which the majority of countries of the developing world, and many of the responsible and mature nations of the “developed world” have confronted the nuclear states with the uncivilized character of their possession of nuclear weapons, and the moral and practical imperative of divesting themselves of these insane instruments of horror.

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