Matthew Bolton, Director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute, asks questions on preambular provisions to states negotiating the proposed nuclear weapons ban treaty at the UN in New York.
Commentary by Matthew Bolton, Director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute in an interactive session on the preamble during the UN negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban treaty.
Thank you for the President’s kind invitation for input from academia, echoed by several delegations this morning. My comments here are intended to offer input derived from my research on preambles of disarmament and arms control treaties. Such preambles often reflect a commitment to ongoing normative development. It would be useful to hear the views of states and the panelists on this matter. In particular, I would like to focus on two elements of this question.
Bonnie Docherty (left) of Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and Matthew Bolton (right), Director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute on a panel regarding positive obligations in the proposed nuclear weapons ban treaty at the UN in March 2017.
The case for the nuclear weapons ban treaty has been rooted in the traditions of international humanitarian law and humanitarian disarmament law, which bind states to acknowledging the suffering caused by war, establishing prohibitions on inhuman methods and means of warfare and taking positive harm-limiting measures.
The Geneva Conventions – the most well-known treaties forming the core of international humanitarian law – prohibit states from targeting civilians, wounded soldiers, prisoners of war, the shipwrecked and relief workers. But they also commit states to a positive “duty to ensure respect” for the conventions (Common Article 1). And they mandate the International Committee of the Red Cross and the National Societies to provide relief and to raise awareness of humanitarian norms.