Obligations concerning Negotiations relating to Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race and to Nuclear Disarmament (Marshall Islands v. United Kingdom)
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Overview of the case
On 24 April 2014, the Marshall Islands filed a number of Applications, including one against the United Kingdom. It accuses the latter of not fulfilling its obligations relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.
The Marshall Islands contends more specifically that the United Kingdom is in breach of Article VI of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), to which they are both party. According to this Article, each party “undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control”.
The Applicant further accuses the United Kingdom, inter alia, of opposing United Nations General Assembly resolutions calling for such negotiations to begin; engaging in “negative and obstructive” conduct with regard to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date; and repeatedly declaring its intention to rely on its nuclear arsenal for decades to come.
By an Order of 16 June 2014, the Court fixed 16 March 2015 and 16 December 2015 as the respective time-limits for the filing of a Memorial by the Marshall Islands and a Counter- Memorial by the United Kingdom.
On 15 June 2015, i.e., within the three-month time-limit provided for in Article 79, paragraph 1, of the Rules of Court, the United Kingdom raised certain preliminary objections in the case. Under the provisions of Article 79, paragraph 5, of the Rules of Court, the proceedings on the merits were consequently suspended and the President of the Court, by an Order dated 19 June 2015, fixed 15 October 2015 as the time-limit within which the Marshall Islands might present a written statement of its observations and submissions on the preliminary objections raised by the United Kingdom.
After holding hearings from 9 to 16 March 2016, the Court delivered its Judgment on the preliminary objections raised by the United Kingdom on 5 October 2016, finding that the United Kingdom’s first preliminary objection must be upheld. It further concluded that, lacking jurisdiction under Article 36, paragraph 2, of its Statute, it cannot proceed to the merits of the case. Given this conclusion, the Court found no need to consider the other preliminary objections raised by the United Kingdom.
This overview is provided for information only and in no way involves the responsibility of the Court.