In March 2022 the UK’s nuclear weapons policy was challenged in the UN Human Rights Council as being in violation of the Right to Life, a right enshrined in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
This challenge, along with another on the nuclear policy of the Netherlands, were made in reports submitted to the Human Rights Council by the Basel Peace Office in cooperation with other civil society organisations, as part of the UN periodic review of the obligations of the United Kingdom under international human rights law including the ICCPR.
Coming at a time when Russia has made nuclear threats to the USA and NATO if they intervene in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the submissions are a reminder of the importance to address the risks of nuclear deterrence policies, and that Russia is not the only country that possesses nuclear weapons and maintains options to initiate nuclear war.
“In times of high tensions involving nuclear-armed and/or allied states, plans and preparations for the use of nuclear weapons elevate the risk of nuclear war which would be a humanitarian catastrophe, severely impacting rights of current and future generations,” said Alyn Ware, Director of the Basel Peace Office. “Compliance with the Right to Life with respect to nuclear weapons is therefore an urgent matter, impacting the rights of all humanity.”
The UK deploys about 160 nuclear warheads (40 on each of their 4 strategic nuclear submarines) which are ready to be fired at any time under policy options to potentially use the nuclear weapons in a wide range of circumstances, including in response to threats from chemical and biological capabilities or emerging technologies that could have a comparable impact.