In order to commemorate the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun published earlier this month an interview with Professor Francis Boyle from the College of Law at the University of Illinois. Professor Boyle is an eminent expert of international law who advised the International Progress Organization (I.P.O.) on many issues of international law, human rights and conflict resolution. At the initiative of Nobel Laureate Seán MacBride and after extensive consultations after its Geneva Conference on the Question of Terrorism, the I.P.O. co-sponsored as early as 1987 an Appeal by Lawyers against Nuclear War .This Appeal was the basis for the later initiative of lawyers to take the issue of the legality of nuclear weapons to the International Court of Justice.
Following is a partial translation of Prof. Boyles statement on the question of the legality of nuclear arms:
The argument of dropping the atomic bombs in order to save the American soldiers' lives is itself illegal. Killing civilians in order to save soldiers is war crimes. (According to the basic rules of international law in existence at that time, a government could under no circumstances justify the intentional killing of even one civilian on the ground that it would save the lives of a greater number of soldiers.)
1940, the U.S. War Department issued "Field Manual 27-10," entitled Rules of
Land Warfare. The heart of FM 27-10 was derived from the Regulations annexed to the
Hague Regulations (1907). Preservation of the basic
distinction between civilians and soldiers was the elemental premise behind the entirety of the international laws of war in 1945. Also, the Hague Draft Rules stated clearly "Aerial bombardment for the purpose of terrorizing civilian population, of destroying or damaging private property not of military character, or of injuring noncombatants is prohibited."
The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki constituted military hostilities specifically directed against their civilian populations. The Field Orders for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks referred to the cities as an "urban area."
Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were egregiously illegal under the relevant rules of international law that were fully subscribed to by the U.S. government as of 1945. The treaty establishing the legal basis for both Nuremberg and Tokyo War Crimes trials was signed in August 1945. According to the Nuremberg Charter, atomic bombings on cities like Hiroshima and Nagasaki constituted "War Crimes."
("Crime against peace" includes "a
war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances..."
"Crime against humanity" includes "murder, extermination, enslavement,
deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population...")
Under the Nuremberg principles, soldiers would be obliged to disobey egregiously illegal