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ALHR offers take on nuclear ban treaty

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has responded to the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) coming into effect last week.

user iconEmma Musgrave 27 January 2021 Politics
ALHR offers take on nuclear ban treaty
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On Friday, 22 January the UN treaty went ahead, which aims to establish a comprehensive set of international legal prohibitions on participating in any nuclear weapon activities.

It comes after the Australian federal government made its position clear on the matter, saying Australia “does not support the ‘ban treaty’ which we believe would not eliminate a single nuclear weapon.

“Additionally, it creates parallel obligations to the NPT, has not engaged any state that possesses nuclear weapons in its negotiations and none have signed or ratified, ignores the realities of the global security environment, has weaker safeguards provisions than called for by the existing NPT framework, fails to set out how disarmament would be verified or enforced in practice, and it would be inconsistent with our US alliance obligations, the government noted.


“As a non-signatory, the treaty’s entry into force on 22 January 2021 does not create legal obligations for Australia.

Offering a different perspective, ALHR president Kerry Weste said the TPNW marks the potential for a new global chapter for nuclear disarmament – one which “acknowledges the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.

Ms Weste noted that the government not signing the treaty now finds itself out of step with international law, with countries that have ratified the treaty agreeing to binding undertakings not to develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons, or to assist other countries in doing so.

“Australia has joined every other treaty that prohibits indiscriminate or inhumane weapons, as well as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, yet the current Federal Government has not yet signed or ratified the TPNW. Indeed, Australia did not participate in the negotiation of the treaty at the United Nations in 2017 and, as recently, as October 2020 the Government voted against an annual UN General Assembly resolution welcoming the adoption of the treaty, Ms Weste continued.

“As outlined by the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in their ‘For The Record’ report, the TPNW is not inconsistent with Australia’s obligations under the NPT which, in fact, require Australia to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament. As such, the TPNW builds on and reinforces the NPT.

“ALHR welcomes the fact that more than 250 Federal, State and Territory parliamentarians have now declared their support for the TPNW and we call on the Morrison Government to urgently reconsider Australia’s position and to engage with this new piece of international law.”

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