Biotechnology and weapons: ICRC makes solemn appeal
25-09-2002 News Release 02/53
Geneva (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is today issuing a public appeal on "Biotechnology, Weapons and Humanity" calling for a reaffirmation of norms against biological weapons and for better controls on potentially dangerous biotechnology.
The call comes at the end of a two-day conference hosted by the ICRC in Montreux, Switzerland, where government and independent experts met to assess the risk of abuse of advances in this domain.
The ICRC is concerned that the many and rapid developments in biotechnology, could be put to hostile use. At the Montreux meeting emphasis was placed on threats that could potentially arise from new scientific developments rather than on existing dangers. Alarm about such possibilities comes at a time when States Parties to the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention are facing grave difficulties in achieving progress at the Review Conference for this Convention which will resume in November. The ICRC hopes that the Montreux conference and its Appeal will serve to encourage States to reaffirm, fully implement and strengthen existing prohibitions on biological warfare in light of rapid scientific advances.
The ICRC appeal calls on all political and military authorities, the scientific and medical communities, and the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries to " work together to subject potentially dangerous biotechnology to effective controls " . The appeal calls for a high level reaffirmation of existing prohibitions on poisoning and on the deliberate spread of disease, in particular the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. The appeal also calls on national authorities to ensure that these prohibitions are known and respected by members of their armed forces and to prosecute those who contravene them. The scientific community and biotech industry are urged to " adopt professional and industrial codes of conduct aimed at preventing the abuse of biological agents " .
The ICRC's appeal was formally presented to the conference by ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger.The full text of the ICRC appeal, with additional information regarding both the Montreux conference and related issues, can be found on the ICRC's Biotechnology, Weapons and Humanity web-page.