Setsuko Thurlow's Wish for Nuclear Disarmament

TUE, OCT 8, 2019

Setsuko Thurlow, a native of Hiroshima, describes her journey from atomic bomb survivor to nuclear disarmament advocate. In 2017, she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which had spearheaded efforts to achieve a treaty banning nuclear weapons. This event accompanies the photo exhibition “From the Atomic Bomb to the Nobel Peace Prize”, which illustrates the impact of nuclear weapons and recent progress toward their elimination from a humanitarian point of view.

Bonnie Docherty provides introductory remarks on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the International Human Rights Clinic’s role in negotiating obligations to assist victims of nuclear weapons use and testing and to remediate contaminated environments. Docherty directs the Clinic’s Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative.

Organized by the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative. Co-sponsored by the Human Rights Program, HLS Advocates for Human Rights, and Hibakusha Stories/Youth Arts New York.

Image: Courtesy of Photographer Ari Beser

+ BIO: Bonnie Docherty

Bonnie Docherty is Associate Director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection and a Lecturer on Law at the International Human Rights Clinic. She is also a Senior Researcher in the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch. Docherty specializes in disarmament and international humanitarian law, particularly as they relate to civilian protection during armed conflict.

Docherty has worked in the field of humanitarian disarmament since 2001 as lawyer, field researcher, and scholar. Her on-site investigations of cluster munition use in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Georgia helped galvanize international opposition to the weapon. She participated in the negotiations of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions and has promoted strong implementation of the convention since its adoption.

More recently, Docherty has applied a humanitarian approach to her work on other indiscriminate or inhumane weapons. She played a key role in the negotiations of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, successfully advocating for specific provisions and providing legal advice to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the civil society coalition that received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. Her many publications on fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots,” have shaped civil society arguments for a preemptive ban on weapons that would select and engage targets without meaningful human control. She has been a global leader in efforts to strengthen international law on incendiary weapons and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

+ BIO: Setsuko Thurlow

Ms. Setsuko Thurlow was 13 years old when she witnessed the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Nine members of her family and close relatives, and many of her classmates, were among the 70,000 who were killed within the first minute. Three days later, Nagasaki was destroyed by a second atomic weapon. By the end of 1945, the bombings killed more than a quarter of a million people.

Setsuko has spent the last 65 years speaking out about the horrors of nuclear war in an effort to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again. She is one of the remaining Hibakusha—the survivors of the atomic explosions—who bear witness to the catastrophic humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons. Through their personal stories and great courage, the Hibakusha have inspired generations of people around the world to take action, helping to pressure governments to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.

Setsuko became an early advocate in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which IPPNW founded in 2007. Her powerful testimony played a critical role in the campaign’s successful effort to persuade United Nations Member States to negotiate and approve the landmark Treaty of the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017. Later that year, Setsuko joined ICAN executive director Beatrice Finn in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of ICAN.

With an academic background in sociology and social work, Setsuko also spent her career in service to others at numerous educational, medical, and social service organizations, including the founding of Japanese Family Services.

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