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【Special report No.18-2】”Nuclear Threats Under International Law Part II: Applying the Law” (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 8, 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).



Throughout the nuclear age, states have made a wide array of threats to use nuclear weapons. There is, however, often little clarity as to whether such threats are legal or illegal under international law. This article is the second in a two-part series, and in this piece we examine how two specific sets of international legal rules apply to select examples of past nuclear threats. In particular we analyse the legality of certain threats under the jus ad bellum regime of international law that regulates recourse to war between states, before turning to consider specific threat examples in the context of the jus in bello regime, which applies to regulate the conduct of hostilities during an armed conflict. Throughout the article, we identify a number of complexities and deficiencies in the ways that the rules of jus ad bellum and jus in bello apply to nuclear threats in practice.

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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