Nuclear weapons: Filling the legal gap NOW!

In a speech given to the diplomatic community in Geneva, 28 February 2015, Peter Maurer, president of the ICRC, reiterated the organization’s call for the prohibition and elimination of these weapons through a legally binding agreement:

“The ICRC believes that reducing the risk of nuclear-weapon use and ensuring their elimination through a legally binding international agreement is a humanitarian imperative.

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However, other trends since 2010 give reason for grave concern. There is no evidence of negotiations for “rapid reductions” of nuclear weapons and even fewer signs of momentum towards their “total elimination.” Reports that the pace of reduction of nuclear arsenals has slowed and of the modernization of nuclear weapons by some States raise concerns that their role in security policies is not actually being reduced and may provide incentives for proliferation.

The 70th anniversary of the first use of nuclear weapons is the moment to signal that the era of nuclear weapons is coming to an end and that the threat of these weapons will be forever banished. It is the time to draw legal, political and operational conclusions from what has been learned about those “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” that States party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty recognized five years ago.

In 2011, the Council of Delegates of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement appealed to all States “to ensure that nuclear weapons are never again used” and “to prohibit the use of and completely eliminate nuclear weapons through a legally binding international agreement, based on existing commitments and international obligations.”

I echo that call here today. The ICRC also appeals to States to fulfil the commitments contained in Article 6 of the NPT by establishing a time-bound framework to negotiate a legally binding agreement – and to consider the form that such an agreement could take. The catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and current trends are too serious to ignore. The prohibition and elimination of these weapons through a legally binding agreement is the only guarantee that they will never be used again.

States Parties should make the NPT Review Conference this May a turning point for decision-making and progress in this area.

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See here for the full text of the speech!

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