Transitional Justice in the Nuclear Age: Addressing Past Legacies of Nuclear Use and Testing

The project inves­tigates legal and political efforts to address past injus­tices caused by nuclear weapons. Both the use of nuclear weapons against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Naga­saki in World War II and decades of nuclear testing and nuclear weapons production have caused grave and enduring human and environ­mental harm. Yet, states respon­sible for this damage have yet to address these nuclear legacies in adequate ways. This project analyses victims’ demands for nuclear justice, their legal and political struggles, as well as state policies and trans­national and inter­national norm dynamics relating to aspects of nuclear justice. We base our analysis on a frame­work that draws on the concept of “tran­sitional justice” – coined originally to discuss how societies come to terms with legacies of auto­cratic govern­ment and civil war – and thus differs from conven­tional perspectives that conceive (in)justice in nuclear politics as referring to the inequality between nuclear “haves” and “have-nots”. The frame­work distinguishes four pillars of nuclear justice – accoun­tability, redress, truth-seeking and non-recurrence – which have played different roles in struggles for nuclear justice and have been addressed to different degrees by national policies and inter­national norms. In applying the frame­work to efforts to come to terms with past nuclear harm, the project pursues both an ana­lytical and a normative goal. Analyti­cally, we use the framework to measure progress made since the start of the nuclear age in addressing nuclear injus­tice and to compare nuclear justice initiatives across situations, nuclear weapon states, and victim communities, seeking to account for observable variation. Norma­tively, we use the frame­work to identify remaining gaps and poten­tials for political and legal action, specifi­cally by placing efforts to come to terms with nuclear legacies in the broader con­texts of addressing mass violence and of reckoning with colonial injus­tices. We do not intend our frame­work to replace other prominent perspectives on nuclear harm – e.g. humanitarian, environ­mentalist and decolonial pers­pectives – but seek to bring it into a fruitful conver­sation with these alter­native analytical angles.

NPT 2022: An Opportunity to Advance Nuclear Justice | 2022

Baldus, Jana / Fehl, Caroline / Hach, Sascha (2022): NPT 2022: An Opportunity to Advance Nuclear Justice, Global Policy, 13.5.2022.

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Beyond the Ban | 2021

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

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