Nukewatch Quarterly Spring 2015
Last April, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) boldly sued nine nuclear weapons states in the International Court of Justice for refusing to negotiate nuclear disarmament, in violation of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT. (See Summer 2014 Quarterly.) The RMI also filed a separate suit against the United States in Federal District Court in California, alleging the US is violating legal obligations under the treaty, which was ratified by the US Senate in 1972.
The case is raising awareness of the NPT just as arms control organizations, disarmament groups and international law activists prepare for the UN’s 2015 Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference in May. Thousands of nuclear weapons opponents will descend on New York City April 24, 25 and 26 for meetings, rallies and marches.*
“The Marshall Islands are desperately trying to rescue the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,” wrote James Carroll January 5 in the Boston Globe—and the NPT clearly needs saving. As John Burroughs, Director of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy told the New York Times, “There have never even been any multilateral negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons.”
In the opening legal battle, lawyers for the RMI asked California’s Northern District federal court to reject the US government’s July 2014 claim that it cannot be compelled to comply with its NPT obligations. Then on Feb. 3, Federal District Judge Jeffrey White dismissed the RMI suit, ruling that the tiny state lacked standing to bring the suit, that the case was “nonjusticiable” because it involved a political question, and that the injuries claimed “could not be redressed by compelling the specific performance by only one Party to the Treaty.”
Attorneys for the RMI will appeal California’s lower court ruling while they pursue the cases at The Hague.
* See International Peace & Planet Conference, April 24-25, & register at <www.peaceandplanet.org>