Pacific island nation sues nuclear-weapons nations


Click to enlarge this view of the US blowing a hole in the Marshall Islands

The tiny Pacific nation of the Marshall Islands is taking on the United States and the world’s eight other nuclear-armed nations with an unprecedented lawsuit demanding that they meet their obligations toward disarmament and accusing them of “flagrant violations” of international law.

The island group that was used for dozens of U.S. nuclear tests after World War II filed suit Thursday against each of the nine countries in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands. It also filed a federal lawsuit against the United States in San Francisco, naming President Barack Obama, the departments and secretaries of defense and energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The Marshall Islands claims the nine countries are modernizing their nuclear arsenals instead of negotiating disarmament, and it estimates that they will spend $1 trillion on those arsenals over the next decade…

The countries targeted also include Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. The last four are not parties to the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but the lawsuits argue they are bound by its provisions under “customary international law.” The nonproliferation treaty, considered the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament efforts, requires negotiations among countries in good faith on disarmament.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to comment on the lawsuit…

The Marshall Islands were the site of 67 nuclear tests by the United States over a 12-year period, with lasting health and environmental impacts.

“Our people have suffered the catastrophic and irreparable damage of these weapons, and we vow to fight so that no one else on earth will ever again experience these atrocities,” the country’s foreign minister, Tony de Brum, said in a statement announcing the lawsuits.

The country is seeking action, not compensation. It wants the courts to require that the nine nuclear-armed states meet their obligations…

The Marshall Islands is asking the countries to accept the International Court of Justice’s jurisdiction in this case and explain their positions on the issue.

The court has seen cases on nuclear weapons before. In the 1970s, Australia and New Zealand took France to the court in an effort to stop its atmospheric nuclear tests in the Pacific.

I doubt if our so-called Liberal president will find room in his heart to defend the rights and needs of these island folk. After all, they’re not sitting on uninhabited rocks in the South China Sea important to Japan’s quest for oil.

4 thoughts on “Pacific island nation sues nuclear-weapons nations

  1. General Apathy says:

    File under ‘throwing spitballs into the mouth of hell’ except possibly in the proverbial court of public opinion – see Republic of Nicaragua v. The United States of America (1986) [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicaragua_v._United_States], which led to the U.S. only accepting the ICJ’s jurisdiction on a case-by-case basis, which is to say whenever that might suit US interests.
    Chapter XIV of the United Nations Charter authorizes the UN Security Council to enforce World Court rulings. However, such enforcement is subject to the veto power of the five permanent members of the Council (all of whom are included in the Marshall Islander’s lawsuit), which the United States used in the Nicaragua case.

  2. Update says:

    March 1, 2017: Marshall Islands’ Nuclear Arms Lawsuit Thrown Out by the International Court of Justice https://www.msuilr.org/msuilr-legalforum-blogs/2017/3/1/marshall-islands-nuclear-arms-lawsuit-thrown-out-by-the-icj
    July 31, 2017: Marshall Islands Lawsuit Appeal is Dismissed by the 9th Circuit Court https://nukewatch.org/Marshall_Islands_lawsuit.html
    May 16, 2019: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres raised concerns Thursday that a concrete dome built last century to contain waste from atomic bomb tests is leaking radioactive material into the Pacific. https://www.afp.com/en/news/3954/un-chief-concerned-nuclear-coffin-leaking-pacific-doc-1gi1012 “Numerous Marshall islanders were forcibly evacuated from ancestral lands and resettled, while thousands more were exposed to radioactive fallout.
    The island nation was ground zero for 67 American nuclear weapons tests from 1946-58 at Bikini and Enewetak atolls, when it was under US administration.
    The tests included the 1954 “Bravo” hydrogen bomb, the most powerful ever detonated by the United States, about 1,000 times bigger than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.”

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