ICRC President: Use, threat to use, or possess of nuclear weapons is unacceptable in humanitarian, moral and legal terms

Signing ceremony of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

26 September 2018

New York – The President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Maurer today issued a stark warning on the risks of the use of nuclear weapons and the urgent need for progress towards their elimination.

Speaking at the signing ceremony of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) Mr Maurer noted that "States are sending a clear signal that any use, threat of use or possession of these weapons is unacceptable in humanitarian, moral, and now legal terms."

"Today, such signal is needed more than ever. The risk of use of nuclear weapons is frighteningly high. Threats of use of nuclear weapons have entered mainstream politics," Mr Maurer added.

The adoption of the TPNW was driven by the compelling evidence of the suffering on a massive scale that would be caused by the use of nuclear weapons, in terms of their immediate and long-term effects on people, societies, health-care systems and the environment.

Nuclear disarmament is a humanitarian imperative. ICRC believes that the TPNW provides a solid foundation to achieve this goal:

  • By clearly and comprehensively prohibiting nuclear weapons, the Treaty reinforces the taboo against their use, and is a further disincentive for their proliferation.
  • By providing pathways for their elimination, the Treaty is a concrete step towards fulfilling existing nuclear disarmament obligations, notably those under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which remains a cornerstone of disarmament efforts but desperately needs real progress on its nuclear disarmament obligations if it is to maintain its credibility.
  • By foreseeing assistance for victims of nuclear testing and use and for remediation of contaminated environments, the Treaty recognizes a duty of States to care for all life harmed by these horrific weapons.

"Fourteen months ago, 122 States took a courageous and historic step towards the elimination of the most terrifying weapon ever invented," said Mr Maurer. "The Treaty is an indispensable, and long-awaited, building block toward a world free of nuclear weapons. As with chemical and biological weapons, the elimination of nuclear weapons must begin with their de-legitimization."

See full remarks at https://www.icrc.org/en/person/peter-maurer