On April 12, 2008, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation presented a Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Peace Leadership to Judge Christopher Weeramantry of Sri Lanka. Judge Weeramantry is a former Supreme Court Justice of Sri Lanka and former Vice President of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. He was also a professor of law at Monash University in Australia.
Judge Weeramantry currently heads the Weeramantry International Centre for Peace Education and Research. He views justice as the prerequisite to peace, and peace education as a prerequisite to justice. He is an active educator, lecturing throughout the world and writing prolifically. He is the author of more than 20 books and 200 articles related to peace, cross-cultural understanding and international law. He is an expert on the moral influences of religions on international law, and is currently completing a book on the influences of five major religions on peace and international law.
Judge Weeramantry has received many honors for his tireless work for peace and justice. In 2006, he was awarded the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education for his “indefatigable campaign for peace education, promotion of human rights, intercultural faith and understanding.” In 2007, he received the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize, “for his lifetime of groundbreaking work to strengthen and expand the rule of international law.” In 2007, Judge Weeramantry also received Sri Lanka’s highest civil honor, “conferred for exceptionally outstanding and most distinguished service to the nation.”
As a judge on the International Court of Justice, Judge Weeramantry wrote a lengthy dissent to the Court’s Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons. The Court found that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be generally illegal, but held open the possibility of legality in an extreme circumstance in which the very survival of a state was at stake. In his dissent, Judge Weeramantry concluded that there was no instance in which the threat or use of nuclear weapons could be considered legal under international law. Judge Weeramantry’s dissent in this case remains the most comprehensive and important legal opinion written on this critical issue.
In his acceptance speech upon receiving the Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Judge Weeramantry spoke on “Peace, International Law and the Rights of Future Generations.” He pointed out that the 20th century had begun with high hopes for peace on the heels of the 1899 Hague Peace Conference. The Conference, convened by Czar Nicholas of Russia, sought to avert the resort to war in the 20th century. But, the judge pointed out, as we all know, the 20th century was witness to two devastating world wars. Judge Weeramantry described the 20th century as the century of lost opportunity. He characterized the 21st century as the century of last opportunity.
The judge expressed the concern that unless the international community is able to resolve conflicts peacefully and abolish its most destructive weapons, we may foreclose the human future. Thus, each of us alive on the planet today has special responsibilities to assure that the decisions made today will not destroy the planet for ourselves or future generations.
The Lifetime Achievement Award of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation is presented to “outstanding individuals who have made significant long-term contributions to building a more peaceful world.” Its purpose, like other Foundation awards, is to honor distinguished individuals and to shine a light on peace leadership as a model to inspire a larger societal commitment to peace and to help empower a new generation of peace leaders.
Previous recipients of the Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award are former Canadian Senator Douglas Roche (2005); psychiatrist and author Dr. Robert Jay Lifton (2005); scientist of conscience Sir Joseph Rotblat (1997); civil society leader for the law of the sea Elisabeth Mann Borgese (1995); and two-time Nobel Laureate Dr. Linus Pauling (1991). The Foundation is proud to add Judge Christopher Weeramantry to this list of distinguished previous honorees.
David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org). He is a councilor of the World Future Council.