Marshall Islands takes on India, Pakistan with nuclear warning at UN court

Published: March 7, 2016


THE HAGUE: The Marshall Islands on Monday painted a vivid picture of the horrors of nuclear war decades after some of its atolls were vaporised in atomic tests, in an unusual legal battle against the nuclear arms race.

The small Pacific island nation opened a case against India, Pakistan and Britain in a David-versus-Goliath battle before the UN’s highest tribunal based in The Hague.

Judges at the International Court of Justice are holding a series of hearings over several days to decide whether it is indeed competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan.

A third hearing against Britain, scheduled to start on Wednesday, will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

Marshall Islands to open nuclear arms battle against Pakistan, India

The Marshall Islands aims to shine a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said Monday.

Following US-led tests in the 1950s “several islands in my country were vaporised and others are estimated to remain uninhabitable for thousands of years,” the country’s representative Tony deBrum told the court.

He remembered in particular the “Castle Bravo” test of March 1, 1954, which he witnessed as a nine-year-old while fishing with his grandfather in an atoll, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) from the blast’s epicentre.

“The entire sky turned blood red,” deBrum recalled when US scientists exploded a hydrogen bomb, with a force 1,000 times stronger than the device dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

“Many died, or suffered birth defects never before seen and cancers as a result of contamination.”

Marshall Islands sue Pakistan, India and Britain over nuclear weapons

The Marshall Islands alleges that despite their suffering, the world’s nuclear powers have failed in their obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

They were “not fulfilling their obligations with respect to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

The hearings are starting just days after North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un Friday ordered the country’s nuclear arsenal to be readied for pre-emptive use at any time.

The Marshall Islands had sought to bring a case against nine countries: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States.

India and Pakistan along with North Korea have not signed the NPT treaty, and Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the ICJ has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan because they already recognised the ICJ’s authority.

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The six other countries, including the world’s two largest nuclear powers the United States and Russia “decided there was no need for them to respond to the Marshall Islands’ filing,” Majuro’s lawyers lamented.

In 1996, the ICJ in another case issued a non-binding advisory opinion in which it urged the world’s nuclear powers to negotiate a reduction of their nuclear stockpiles.

But two decades later, very little progress has been made to reduce the nuclear threat, observers attending the case told AFP.

The Marshall Islands therefore decided to sue the world’s nuclear heavyweights as “it has a particular awareness of the dire consequences of nuclear weapons,” it said in court papers.

Between 1946 and 1958 the United States conducted 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands including Bikini atoll, deBrum told the ICJ’s judges.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Jameel ur Rasheed
    Mar 7, 2016 - 6:55PM

    Castle Bravo tests did not go as planned. Marshal Islands should be suing USA for the mishap not any other country.Recommend

  • Srinivasulu Mekala
    Mar 7, 2016 - 7:03PM

    Very funny. Let us see what ICJ would or would not do.Recommend

  • Haji Atiya
    Mar 7, 2016 - 7:08PM

    If Israel why not Iran on the basis of suspicion alone ?Recommend

  • Pakistani Sindhi
    Mar 7, 2016 - 8:08PM

    This is the only way Marshall Islands makes the news around the world; otherwise even their neighbors do not know about its existence. Recommend

  • Pakistani Sindhi
    Mar 7, 2016 - 8:12PM

    @Haji Atiya: UN Inspectors have found no such activity in Iran, which is why the US also lifted decades old sanctions imposed on Iran. Israel neither admits nor declares owning nuclear stockpiles, which are in hundreds.Recommend

  • ABC
    Mar 8, 2016 - 9:36AM

    @Haji Atiya:

    Ignorance is bliss my Indian friendRecommend

  • Haji Atiya
    Mar 8, 2016 - 10:24AM

    @Pakistani Sindhi:
    Alas, I wobble my head to your pearls of wisdom. There is still a groundswell of suspicion in the West on whether Iran is still surreptitiously developing N-arms and their delivery, notwithstanding what the UN inspectors saw or not. These inspectors certainly did not cover the entire length and breadth of the country, only what was identified as observable known sites. On that basis, Obama went ahead and proposed the lifting of sanctions.Recommend

    May 9, 2016 - 2:49PM

    Then, why only against India and Pakistan? Why not against US who used the nuclear bomb and also others nearer home like China? The case appears to be politically motivated.Recommend

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