A Global Agenda for Nuclear Justice

New PRIF Report on progress and persisting shortcomings in achieving nuclear justice. By J. Baldus, C. Fehl and S. Hach

The Mururoa Atoll nuclear weapons test site. Photo: picture-alliance/dpa | epa

The Mururoa Atoll nuclear weapons test site. Photo: picture-alliance/dpa | epa

The issue of nuclear justice has recently gained prominence in international debates about nuclear weapons. How should the international community deal with the past use and testing of nuclear arms so as to do justice both to the victims of these nuclear acts and to the states or individuals that caused them? And what lessons should it draw from the past to prevent future use and testing of nuclear weapons?

The new PRIF Report "Beyond the ban. A global agenda for nuclear justice" by Jana BaldusCaroline Fehl and Sascha Hach provides a systematic review of global progress made towards achieving nuclear justice and of persisting shortcomings. To capture the multifaceted nature of nuclear justice, the authors propose an analytical framework distinguishing four different dimensions: (1) criminal liability (2) redress for victims (3) truth-telling and apologies and (4) legal reforms to ensure non-recurrence. The report applies the framework to analyze efforts to deal with the legacy of the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, responses to the suffering caused by nuclear testing, as well as past and ongoing legal and political reforms that would influence assessments of the legality and legitimacy of future nuclear uses and tests and/or that have been put in place specifically to prevent the recurrence of nuclear uses and tests.

The report finds that some progress has been achieved in all dimensions of the nuclear justice agenda – albeit to varying degrees. For example, although some headway has been made with respect to redress, compensation programs are often underfunded, discriminate among different categories of victims and impose high standards of proof. The report concludes on a list of actions that non-governmental organizations as well as nuclear and non-nuclear states could take to advance nuclear justice.

Download: Baldus, Jana/Fehl, Caroline/Hach, Sascha: Beyond the Ban. A Global Agenda for Nuclear Justice, PRIF Report 4/2021, Frankfurt/M.