Via Harvard Gazette

Law School affiliates boost international treaty to ban nuclear weapons

Photo of Bonnie Docherty and students at the UN

Photo by Ralf Schlesenger
Two Harvard Law clinicians and four students took part in negotiating the treaty banning nuclear weapons as partners of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which recently received the Nobel Peace Prize.

When a Norwegian committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) for its work behind a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, 3,500 miles away six people at Harvard cheered loudly.

They had reason to celebrate.

Bonnie Docherty, associate director of armed conflict and civilian protection, and clinical instructor Anna Crowe, who teach at the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School (HLS), and four law students had taken part in the treaty negotiations spearheaded by ICAN, a Geneva-based international coalition of organizations from more than 100 countries.

Supported by 122 countries at the United Nations in July, the treaty is the first to prohibit the use of nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

For Docherty, who is also a senior researcher in the arms division of Human Rights Watch, last month’s Peace Prize brought attention to the treaty, reached amid increasing threats of a nuclear confrontation between the United States and North Korea.

“The negotiations were timely and urgent,” said Docherty. “It reminded the world of the need to take tangible steps for nuclear disarmament. The treaty banning nuclear weapons will make a real difference in the world.”

The agreement prohibits countries from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing, or stockpiling nuclear weapons, but it needs to be ratified by 50 states before it can become international law. Complicating matters is the fact that the treaty has been boycotted by the world’s nine nuclear powers: the U.S., Russia, Israel, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea.

Students Carina Bentata Gryting, J.D. ’18, Molly Doggett, J.D. ’17, Alice Osman LL.M. ’17, and Lan Mei, J.D. ’17 took part in the negotiations and advocated for the inclusion of Articles 6 and 7, which included provisions to assist victims of nuclear use or testing and remediate the environment harmed, in the text of the treaty.

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