Red Cross holds A-bomb ceremony, calls for disarmament

The Red Cross on Tuesday planted a sapling of a tree that survived the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima to commemorate the 68th anniversary of the nuclear attack.

The planting ceremony was held at the Red Cross headquarters in Geneva. The audience, which included Japanese diplomatic representatives and staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross, paid homage to the victims and emphasized the special relationship the Geneva-based humanitarian organization shares with Hiroshima.

"The ICRC and Hiroshima have a unique bond of friendship," the vice president of the ICRC, Oliver Vodoz, said during the ceremony.

Marcel Junod, who was appointed head of the ICRC delegation in Japan in early August 1945, was the first foreign doctor to reach the devastated city at the beginning of September.

His written account of his experience on the ground remains as a stark reminder of the terrible consequences of the use of nuclear weapons and a strong call for nuclear disarmament.

"The ICRC has urged states to pursue the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons, drawing conviction from Junod's shocking findings in Hiroshima," Vodoz said. The Geneva-based organization has been calling for total nuclear disarmament ever since the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Red Cross maintains that the use of such weapons is incompatible with several principles of the Geneva Conventions, including the obligation to differentiate between combatants and civilians, and to avoid causing unnecessary suffering.

"The scale of the destruction, and the risk associated with exposure to ionizing radiation make it nearly impossible to deliver adequate humanitarian assistance to victims in the aftermath of a nuclear blast," Vodoz declared.

In a letter sent on the occasion of the ceremony, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui said the planting of the sapling would "spread a message of peace to raise world public awareness for the abolition of nuclear weapons."

The sapling, descended from a 200-year-old tree, was planted on the initiative of Green Legacy Hiroshima, an organization that distributes the seeds and saplings of trees that survived the atomic bombing of the city to raise awareness of the destructive impact of nuclear weapons.