Appeal by Lawyers Against Nuclear War

The Appeal was formulated at the initiative of Seán MacBride. The Appeal was jointly launched by the International Peace Bureau and the I.P.O. after consultations at the I.P.O.'s Geneva conference on the question of terrorism in March 1987.


Considering that the intensification, both qualitative and quantitative, of the arms race, and particularly of the nuclear arms race, endangers the very survival of humanity,

Considering that while the world today faces problems of hunger and economic crisis, enormous material, financial and intellectual resources are wasted on the arms race and in preparing for nuclear war,

Considering that according to national and international medical and scientific opinion, there are no means of limiting the disastrous consequences of a nuclear war;1) the use of even a limited amount of the nuclear arsenal would provoke an unprecedented ecological catastrophe which mankind would not survive,

Considering an increasingly complicated technology, and given the fact that any decision to use nuclear weapons would be made instantaneously, there is a risk of a nuclear war breaking out accidentally through human miscalculation or technological mishap,

Considering that international law does not permit states an unlimited choice in the methods of waging war; it prohibits in particular means of warfare which are intended to cause unnecessary suffering, those which could severely damage the environment, those which are incapable of distinguishing between military and non-military objectives or between military forces and civilian populations; it also prohibits the use of poisonous or asphyxiating bacteriological materials, and provides that the territory of neutral states is inviolable,2)

Considering that the Martens Clause which, since 1899 has figured in numerous treaties and international agreements, provides that in situations not covered by such treaties or agreements, "the populations and belligerents remain under the protection and empire of the principles of international law, as they result from the usages established among civilized nations, from the laws of humanity and from the dictates of the public conscience,"

Convinced, as is the General Assembly of the United Nations, that "to avoid the threat of a world war a nuclear war is the most pressing and urgent task of our times,"3)

CONVINCED THAT LAWYERS CANNOT REMAIN SILENT and have a responsibility to make known, to develop and to defend the rules of international law, and thus contribute to the maintenance of peace, to international security, and to the establishment of an international order which reflects the aspirations of humanity,

Deeply convinced that the moment has come in the history of mankind when there is no alternative for the survival of civilization than the acceptance and application of the rule of law in international relations,

Declare that the use, for whatever reason, of a nuclear weapon would constitute a) a violation of international law, b) a violation of human rights, and c) a crime against humanity,4)


June 1987


  1. Resolution 38/75 of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

  2. See in particular the Declaration of St. Petersburg of 1868, the Hague Convention of 1907, the Geneva Protocol  of 1925, the Judgment of the International Tribunal at Nuremberg and Tokyo of 1946 and Resolution 95(1) (1946)  of the General Assembly, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977.

  3. Resolution 36/81 B-1981 and 40/151 E-1985.

  4. General Assembly of the United Nations, resolutions 1653 (XVI)-1961, 2936 (XXVII)-1972, 33/71 B-1978,   34/83 G-1919, 35/152 D-1980, 36/921-1981, 38/75-1983, 40/151 P-1985.