Marshall Islands Begins Legal Action Aimed at Global Nuclear Disarmament

Marshall Islands Begins Legal Action Aimed at Global Nuclear Disarmament

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The Marshall Islands has begun an extraordinary legal challenge against the world’s nuclear powers, aiming to reinvigorate momentum towards global nuclear disarmament.

The tiny south Pacific state will argue before the International Court of Justice in The Hague that the health and lives of its citizens have been destroyed by the dozens of nuclear tests conducted along its territory between 1946 and 1958.

“I can just go down the list of my wife’s family, you don’t even have to go that far and almost every Marshall Islander out here can do this: my wife’s mother died of cancer of the uterus; my wife’s uncle died of thyroid cancer,” Jack Niedenthal, trust liaison for the People of Bikini Atoll, said.

Another Marshall Islands representative, Tony de Brum, told the court he watched one of the US nuclear tests in his home country as a 9-year-old boy while fishing with his grandfather.

“The entire sky turned blood red,” he told judges. He said some of his country’s islands were “vaporized” by the tests, the Guardian reported.

The Marshall Islands initially filed cases against all nine known or suspected nuclear weapons states – the US, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

But only the cases against the UK, India, and Pakistan have reached the current preliminary stage of proceedings before the court, because the other six nations have refused to participate.

The Marshall Islands argues nuclear weapons states have failed to carry out good-faith negotiations toward nuclear disarmament, as required under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, signed in 1968 and in force since 1970.

While the UK is a party to the NPT, India and Pakistan are not, but the Marshall Islands argues the principle of disarmament is sufficiently well-established in international law to be considered customary law.

There is no expectation the Marshall Islands challenge will force the three powers to disarm, but the archipelago’s campaign highlights a growing avenue for small countries, previously thought powerless, to raise problems and issues through global tribunals.

The court has previously ruled on the obligation of nuclear weapons states to move toward disarmament. In a 1996 advisory opinion, the judges stated unanimously that there existed an “obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control”.

Hearings of the Marshall Islands challenge began in The Hague on Monday, the same day North Korea warned of an indiscriminate “pre-emptive nuclear strike of justice” on Washington and Seoul, in reaction to the commencement of US-South Korean military drills.

Most Visited in Other Media
Top Other Media stories