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Use of Trident Would be Illegal

The use of a Trident nuclear missile, or its successor, would breach international law, the government is warned today. Even the threat to use nuclear weapons is unlawful, ministers are warned in a legal opinion by leading human rights lawyers. They say use of Trident would infringe what the International Court of Justice calls the \"intransgressible\" - or absolute - requirement that a distinction must be drawn between combatants and non-combatants. Nuclear weapons would also breach the requirement that use of force in self-defence must be proportionate. \"A Trident warhead would be inherently indiscriminate,\" says Rabinder Singh, QC, and professor Christine Chinkin of the London School of Economics, in a legal opinion for the campaigning group, Peace Rights. \"In light of the blast, heat, and radioactive effects of a detonation of a Trident warhead, it is impossible to envisage how the intransgressible requirement of the principle of distinction between combatants and non-combatants or the requirement of proportionality\" could be met. \"Even if aimed at a military target a Trident warhead cannot distinguish between that and civilians. Radioactive effects are not contained by time or space.\" They say the distinction between civilians and combatants is a key feature of the statute setting up the International Criminal Court which Britain has signed up to.