[JURIST] The UN General Assembly [official website] on Thursday voted to begin [text, PDF] negotiations on banning nuclear weapons, despite opposition votes from world leaders including the United States, Russia, and the UK. The vote in the UN disarmament and international security committee passed 123-38, with 16 abstentions. The resolution aims to be a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination, and “fill the legal gap by which the most destructive of all weapons – nuclear weapons – are the only weapon of mass destruction to not yet be outlawed by international treaty.” Of the nations opposing [ICANW report] the nuclear ban are all five UN states with veto-power, making any effective nuclear ban unlikely. On the issue Richard Sadleir [official website], Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s assistant secretary, stated, “[a] ban treaty that does not include the nuclear weapons states, those states which possess nuclear weapons, and is disconnected from the rest of the security environment, would be counterproductive and not lead to reductions in nuclear arsenals.”
Nuclear weapons and capabilities have been of increased concern over the past several years. Earlier this month, the International Court of Justice refused to hear [JURIST report] a claim by the Marshall Islands that the world’s nuclear powers failed to halt the nuclear arms race. The court found that they could not hear the case because they did not have jurisdiction over the matter. The Marshall Islands was the site for numerous nuclear tests carried out by the US during the Cold War arms race, and claims that such experience allows it to testify on the danger of a nuclear arms race. The US and France agreed in March 2015 to strengthen nuclear talks with Iran to persuade the nation to restrain its nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions and the following April Iran agreed [JURIST reports] to a framework deal to restrict its nuclear plan. In August 2012 Japanese authorities opened [JURIST report] a criminal investigation into the nuclear power plant meltdown after more than 1,300 people filed [JURIST report] a criminal complaint against the Tokyo Electric Power Company for causing the catastrophe and the resulting radiation.