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Australian Red Cross takes a leading role internationally to push for an end to nuclear weapons

Sunday May 15, 2011

Australian Red Cross, together with its counterparts in Japan and Norway, this weekend convened a global meeting of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement which it hopes will reshape the debate on nuclear weapons.

A delegation made up of Australian Red Cross President Greg Vickery, CEO Robert Tickner, and Dr Helen Durham, Strategic Adviser, International Law, attended the meeting in Oslo to work on proposals which Australian Red Cross hopes will strengthen laws prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons for all time.

'Nuclear weapons wreak incalculable humanitarian and environmental suffering, the effects of which last generations,' Australian Red Cross President Greg Vickery said. 'The fact that nuclear weapons exist means that every day we live with the very real danger that they could be used again, whether accidentally or intentionally.'

Mr Vickery said, 'Australian Red Cross has already written to all members of the Australian Parliament seeking support for a convention to prohibit the use of nuclear weapons and has received strong messages of support in reply from members in all political parties, including from the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop and the leader of the Australian Greens, Dr Bob Brown.'

'Red Cross is the guardian of the Geneva Conventions, which sit at the very heart of the laws of war - and the use of nuclear weapons clearly flouts those laws,' said CEO Robert Tickner. 'The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols are clear that during conflict it is illegal to use weapons that can not distinguish between civilians and combatants and that cause unnecessary suffering. The laws of war also prohibit the use of weapons which cause widespread, long term and severe damage to the environment,' Mr Tickner said.

'Australian Red Cross wants Australia to be an international leader in voicing the need for further laws which confirm the illegality of using nuclear weapons, to ensure the world never again has to face the horrific humanitarian fallout that it did after the nuclear bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,' said Dr Helen Durham, who is also one of Australia's most respected international humanitarian lawyers.

'This August marks 66 years since nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those bombs instantly killed tens of thousands of people and left both cities incinerated and in ruins. Still, almost seven decades on, people live each day with the terrible aftermath of what happened in 1945,' Mr Tickner said.

'All over the world, everyday, Red Cross deals with the brutal fallout from conflict. We want to put an end to the ever-present threat of nuclear warfare.'

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