Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy (LCNP)

organization

Overview

  • Association of anti-war lawyers determined to abolish nuclear weapons
  • Aims to empower “global” bodies rather than sovereign nations
  • Refers to terrorism as “the search for justice”

Founded in 1981 as an outgrowth of the International Association Of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA), the Lawyers’ Committee On Nuclear Policy (LCNP) is a national, nonprofit educational association of attorneys and legal scholars who strive to promote “the global elimination of nuclear weapons and a more just and peaceful world through respect for domestic and international law.” The Committee serves as the United Nations office of IALANA and “categorically rejects war as the answer to real or suspected or imagined nuclear proliferation.”

In an effort to advance its political agendas and perspectives, LCNP: (a) provides “legal and policy analysis to national and international policymakers, civil society, and media”; (b) gives “legal assistance to individuals and organizations working for disarmament and peace”; (c) publishes books, articles and discussion papers for political leaders, lawyers, legal scholars, and laypeople; and (d) “advocate[s] in UN and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty settings, and in Washington, D.C.”

Keywiki.org notes that “[LCNP’s] positions closely parallel those of the Soviet ‘peace’ fronts,” as evidenced by the fact that the Committee’s “officers and initial [Consultative Council members] include a number of activists from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the U.S. section of the Soviet-controlled International Association of Democratic Lawyers.” For example, LCNP’s co-founder and onetime co-chair Martin Popper (1909-1989) was a Communist Party USA member who served as the NLG’s executive secretary during the 1940s. Another LCNP co-founder, Peter Weiss, spent time not only as an NLG member, but also as vice president of the Center for Constitutional Rights and board president of the Institute for Policy Studies.

LCNP seeks to make global legislative bodies such as the UN and the International Court of Justice the sole arbiters of international law. Toward that end, the Committee in the 1990s collaborated with IALANA, the International Peace Bureau, and International Physicians For The Prevention Of Nuclear War (IPPNW), to lead the World Court Project, an initiative which resulted in the International Court of Justice’s July 1996 ruling that the threat or use of nuclear weapons was illegal, and that all nations had a duty to conclude negotiations on the elimination of such weapons.

In 1997, LCNP and IALANA, in association with IPPNW and the International Network Of Engineers And Scientists Against Proliferation (INES), released a “Model Nuclear Weapons Convention” document calling for a prohibition on “the use, threat of use, possession, development, testing, deployment and transfer of nuclear weapons.” The document also demanded the implementation of “a phased program” for the elimination of such weapons “under effective international control.”

After the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, LCNP attorneys demanded that the U.S. forswear any possibility of a military response. Explaining that lawyers who were concerned about peace had a moral and professional duty to “swim against the tide of public opinion,” LCNP co-founder Peter Weiss — in a piece titled “War: Metaphor into Reality” — insisted that “[a] terrorist attack, no matter how heinous, committed by non-state actors, is not a casus belli, an ‘act of war,’ except in a metaphorical sense.” Further, Weiss predicted that if the U.S. were to attack Afghanistan for having given safe haven to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the result would be “a holy war … and, if not the end of democracy as we know it, at least its diminution.” “What is needed at this juncture is the establishment of a global legal regime dealing specifically with terrorism,” claimed LCNP vice president Saul Mendlovitz in the Fall 2001 issue of the LCNP newsletter, BOMBS AWAY!  Moreover, said Mendlovitz, the 9/11 attacks “could—and should—lead to the establishment of a global police force.”

In a 2004 paper which they co-authored, Peter Weiss and fellow LCNP official John Burroughs argued that terrorism is often a form of retaliation by which comparatively weak populations strike back against powerful nations that have oppressed them over a protracted time period: “[I]f there is one lesson that history teaches, it is that social, economic, ethnic and religious differences can translate into feelings of powerlessness and give rise to violence—which the powerless call the search for justice[,] and [which] those at whom the violence is directed call terrorism.” “There may never be a world without terrorism,” Weiss and Burroughs added. “But it is reasonable to expect that the closer the world comes to realizing the full panoply of human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration and the International Covenants, the closer it will be to freedom from terrorism, not least WMD terrorism.”

Over the years, LCNP has received considerable financial support from the Samuel Rubin Foundation, where Peter Weiss once served as treasurer (and where his wife, Cora Weiss, was president).

In March 2017 at the United Nations, LCNP Consultative Council member Jacqueline Cabasso delivered an NGO statement on behalf of IALANA, emphasizing both “the illegality of use of nuclear weapons under existing law” and “the illegality of the threat of use of nuclear weapons under the UN Charter and international humanitarian law.” In a separate NGO statement, LCNP executive director John Burroughs argued in favor of a nuclear-weapons-ban treaty that would do away with the “grotesque regime of nuclear threat” that “we have been living with … since World War II.”

In the early to mid-2000s, LCNP was a member organization of the United For Peace & Justice anti-war coalition. During that same time period, it was also a member of the Abolition 2000 coalition, whose founding member David Krieger once served on LCNP’s Consultative Council. Other notable LCNP figures include past directors such as Alice Slater and Richard Falk, and past Consultative Council members like Richard Barnet, Marcus Raskin, and Edith Tiger.

Further Reading:About LCNP” (LCNP.org); “Publications” (LCNP.org); “Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy” (Keywiki.org); “Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy” (Sourcewatch.org); “World Court Project/International Law” (LCNP.org); “Model Nuclear Weapons Convention” (LCNP.org); “War: Metaphor into Reality” (by Peter Weiss, LCNP.org, 9-19-2001); “Crime(s) of Terror: Developing Law and Legal Institutions” (by Saul Mendlovitz, Bombs Away!, Fall 2001); “Weapons of Mass Destruction and Human Rights” (by Peter Weiss and John Burroughs, 2004); “Nuclear Ban Negotiations [inc. NGO Statements of Cabasso and Burroughs]” (April 2017); Past LNCP Directors and Consultative Council Members (LCNP.org).

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