Protection of War Victims, the relationship between arms availability and violations of humanitarian law and to initiate a process of dialogue within the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement on these matters.
The international community is not impotent in the face of the worldwide scourge of landmines. It is not helpless against the advance of abhorrent technologies. Your predecessors in 1925 largely stopped the use of poison gas in warfare. Your colleagues in 1972 and 1993 forever banned biological and chemical weapons. Public horror at the effects of nuclear weapons and fear of their possible use has been one of the principal forces which has prevented their use and inhibited their proliferation.
You and your governments can, in the coming weeks, prohibit anti-personnel landmines, prevent the horror of blinding laser weapons and reinforce a Convention which seeks to maintain a modicum of humanity, even in warfare. In so doing the public will surely support you. In so doing you might begin to rekindle public faith in international law and institutions at a moment when the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations is being celebrated.
Over the past ten years ICRC medical staff have treated more than twenty-eight thousand mine victims and fitted some eighty thousand artificial limbs on those who have survived. They have too often held in their arms children like You Eng's grandson, whose limbs and lives have been shattered by mines.
It is unacceptable that ten years from now ICRC doctors will have to look into the eyes of You Eng's great-grandchildren, also crippled by a mine blast, and know that in October 1995 something could have been done to prevent it but wasn't. We will all lose something of our humanity if in future years ICRC medical staff must look helplessly into the eyes of soldiers or civilians whose retinas have been burnt by lasers, knowing something could have been done to stop it.
The world awaits a sign from Vienna that there are still certain minimum norms of humanity which civilized countries are unwilling to abandon. You can, in the coming weeks, prevent the unnecessary suffering of a new generation. On behalf of all potential victims I express to you hope and gratitude for your efforts.
INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS NON-PAPER
REVIEW CONFERENCE OF THE 1980 CONVENTION ON CERTAIN
VIENNA, 25 SEPTEMBER–13 OCTOBER 1995