Nukewatch Quarterly Summer 2016
In March, representatives from the Marshall Islands argued in front of 16 International Court of Justice judges at The Hague, making the case that the nuclear-armed states of the United Kingdom, India, and Pakistan are in flagrant violation of international law for failing to pursue the negotiations required by the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The Marshall Islands initiated lawsuits in 2014 against nine states, including declared nuclear powers China, France, Russia, and the United States, as well as Israel and North Korea. Britain, India, and Pakistan were the only nations that made a commitment to respond. The Pacific island nation, which was the site of 67 US nuclear weapons tests from 1946 and 1958, is pursuing a separate case against the United States—which only recognizes the United-Nations-affiliated International Court of Justice on a case-by-case basis—and is currently appealing a 2015 Federal District Court dismissal of the lawsuit.
Phon van den Biesen, who is leading the legal team for the Marshall Islands, described their goal: “We are, basically, asking the Court to tell the respondent states to live up to their obligations under international law and to conduct negotiations leading to the required result: nuclear disarmament in all its aspects.”
Former Marshall Islands foreign minister Tony de Brum testified before the Court. “Several islands in my country were vaporized and others are estimated to remain uninhabitable for thousands of years. Many, many Marshallese died, suffered birth defects never before seen, and battled cancers resulting from contamination.”
Van den Biesen expects the Court will deliberate for three to six months before deciding whether it will allow the cases against the United Kingdom, India, and Pakistan to move forward.
—Radio New Zealand, Mar. 8 & 22, 2016