Nuclear weapons not compatible with humanitarian law: ICRC

20th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

The far-reaching destructive impact of nuclear weapons makes it virtually impossible for their use to ever square with international humanitarian law, the head of the ICRC said Tuesday.

Jakob Kellenberger, who is president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, urged diplomats in Geneva to seize an upcoming review conference on non-proliferation to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again.

The destructive power of nuclear weapons could not be contained in "space or time" and their use would be a "serious danger to future generations," said Kellenberger, quoting findings of the International Court of Justice.

"In the light of this finding, the ICRC finds it difficult to envisage how any use of nuclear weapons could be compatible with the rules of international humanitarian law," he said, in an impassioned appeal against the use of such weapons.

The head of the relief agency also revealed that the ICRC had conducted an analysis of its own capacity as well as those of other international agencies to provide aid in case of any usage of nuclear, radiological, chemical or biological weapons, but found that there was hardly any ready response.

"Despite the existence of some response capacity in certain countries, at the international level, there is little such capacity and no realistic coordinated plan," he said.

Therefore, if such weapons were used, the suffering unleashed would be like that which followed the US' 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in a bid to force Japan's surrender during the last days of World War II.

Pointing out that today's nuclear weapons are many times more powerful than those dropped on Japan, the "human and societal destruction would be much worse," said Kellenberger.

"The implications for human life are indeed sobering," he said.

Kellenberger pointed to next month's review conference on the Non-Proliferation Treaty and said it "provides an historic opportunity" for countries to agree on ways to fulfil the treaty.

"In the view of the ICRC, preventing the use of nuclear weapons requires fulfilment of existing obligations to pursue negotiations aimed at prohibiting and completely eliminating such weapons through a legally binding international treaty," he said.

© 2010 AFP

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