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【Special report No.18】”Nuclear Threats Under International Law Part I: The Legal Framework” (NU-NEA Project)
image: flickr, New Zealand representatives at the ICJ in 1973, arguing the case against French nuclear testing.

Anna Hood and Monique Cormier
March 1, 2024

This report is published under a 4.0 International Creative Commons License the terms of which are found here.
This report is simultaneously published by the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network, Nautilus Institute, and the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, Nagasaki University (RECNA).



The international legal status of threats to use nuclear weapons is uncertain. In this article, we map existing prohibitions against nuclear threats at international law and seek to explain the scope and remit of such laws. To that end, the article explores unilateral negative security assurances; prohibitions on threats to use nuclear weapons in international agreements (including the TPNW, the nuclear weapons free zone treaties and their protocols, and the 1994 Budapest Memorandum); the rules concerning threats in the jus ad bellum regime; and the rules relating to threats in the jus in bello regime. Where there is disagreement about the way these international laws apply to threats to use nuclear weapons, we explain the different views and their significance, and we identify where there are gaps in the existing legal framework. This article is the first in a two-part series on the legality of nuclear threats.

Keywords: Nuclear weapons; international law; threat of force; nuclear threat

Authors’ Profile:

Dr Anna Hood is an associate professor at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Law. Her research focuses primarily on international law and security, and international disarmament law. Within international disarmament law she has particular expertise in, and has published widely on, nuclear weapons law. She is the co-editor, with Dr Treasa Dunworth, of the book Disarmament Law: Reviving the Field (Routledge, 2020) and she has been awarded multiple grants for her work on international disarmament law. In addition to her academic research, Anna provides international law advice to a range of civil society organisations, think tanks and governments.

Dr Monique Cormier is a Senior Lecturer in the Monash University Faculty of Law. Her primary research interests include jurisdiction and immunities in international law and legal issues relating to nuclear non-proliferation. Recent publications include The Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court over Nationals of Non-States Parties (Cambridge University Press, 2020) and ‘Can Australia Join the Nuclear Ban Treaty without Undermining ANZUS?’ (Melbourne University Law Review, 2020, co-authored with Anna Hood).

Full text (PDF) is here.

The page for this project is here.


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