Nuclear weapons ban: Celebrating a new age of international humanitarian law

22 January 2021 - A new age of international law is today being celebrated by Australian Red Cross and other supporters of the elimination of nuclear weapons, with the historic UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons coming into force.

Decades after the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement first advocated for a nuclear weapons ban, Australian Red Cross thanks the 51 nations from around the world that ratified the treaty and made it international law.   

Those states are now banned from using, threatening to use, developing, testing or possessing nuclear weapons.   

Red Cross International Humanitarian Law Adviser Tara Gutman said:   

“This is an historic day that marks the introduction of the final chapter of nuclear weapons. We have been lobbying for their prohibition for 75 years, and this law is the cornerstone of a nuclear weapon-free world.   

“More than 75 years after the bombings in Japan, there has been no humanitarian response developed that is remotely capable of being applied to a nuclear weapon attack. We simply will not be there to assist victims.  

“These weapons are an inhumane response to any military threat a nation might face. They decimate populations, cause untold and needless suffering, and their environmental impact would accelerate climate change making some areas of the planet uninhabitable.    

“We must be pragmatic. This treaty creates a pathway around the roadblock that has stood in our way.  

“We will only eliminate this threat with sensible, ethical and global action.”   

The risk of use of nuclear weapons remains high.      

The world has witnessed bellicose threats and nationalist sentiments around nuclear weapons.  

Some nations that have not signed up to the Treaty have expressed concerns about other nations who may be planning to develop them.      

There’s an estimated 14,000 nuclear weapons in the world today.    

They do not comply with the laws of war because they do not distinguish between civilians and combatants. 

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