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ICRC e-briefing on humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons 

The ICRC has released an e-briefing that shows the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. These consequences have been known to the world since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, says the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Yet for many, a full appreciation of the effects of nuclear weapons in humanitarian terms has faded.


Nagasaki after the explosion of the atom bomb in World War II (photo: Yosuke Yamahata / ICRC archives)

“Paradoxically, we know more than ever before about the impact that even a limited nuclear war would have on people and the environment. We also know, thanks to studies conducted by the ICRC and other organisations, that there is a lack of a humanitarian response capacity in most countries and at the international level if nuclear weapons were ever to be used again.”

The e-briefing, shows photographs and panoramics of the immediate aftermath of the atomic bombings and provides the testimony of victims who survived. It informs readers how the Japanese Red Cross and the ICRC responded at the time to assist victims and the work of the Japanese Red Cross today to assist survivors. The current views of the wider International Movement of the Red Cross and Red Crescent are also presented.

“Although nuclear weapons have not been used in armed conflict since 1945, there is today a very real risk of intentional or accidental nuclear detonation,” according to the ICRC.

This e-briefing shows what international humanitarian law (IHL) has to say about nuclear weapons, and how the discussion on nuclear weapons has been reframed from one of deterrence theory and military strategy to one focused on the profound and long-lasting humanitarian consequences that the use of these weapons would have.

The e-briefing closes with an interview with Tadateru Konoé, president of both the Japanese Red Cross Society and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and Peter Maurer, president of the ICRC, both of whom visited Japan in 2016 to mark the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Access the e-briefing here 

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