Small Island Nation Takes Superpowers to Court over Nukes

Decades after parts of its territory were “vaporized” by United States nuclear testing, the Republic of the Marshall Islands on Monday launched an international court battle against nuclear superpowers.

The Pacific island country has sued nine nations for violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty signed in 1970, and now three of those lawsuits are proceeding in the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

Britain, India, and Pakistan have agreed to take part in the proceedings. The other defendants—the U.S., France, Russia, Israel, China, and North Korea—declined to participate. While India and Pakistan are not signatories to the 1970 treaty, the Marshall Islands’ legal team argues that their nuclear armaments are in violation of international law.

Yahoo News reported:

The unprecedented lawsuit is moving forward at the same time that many powerful countries, including the U.S., are increasing and modernizing their nuclear arsenal, and as North Korea threatens Western nations with claims of possessing a nuclear bomb.

The U.S. detonated 67 nuclear bombs over the Marshall Islands between 1946-1958, the equivalent of 1.7 Hiroshima bombs per day for 12 years, as part of its nuclear weapons testing program, according to the anti-nuclear weapons group Nuclear Zero whose lawyers are arguing on behalf of the island nation.

Marshall Islanders argue that they have suffered tremendously from the tests and resultant lingering radioactivity, and that they therefore have a special interest in seeing the world’s nuclear-armed nations work to reduce the chance of further detonations.

Tony de Brum, the former foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, attested to the horrors of nuclear weapons as he told the international court that “the entire sky turned blood red,” when he witnessed a nuclear test at age nine while fishing with his grandfather, the Associated Press reported.

“He said some of his country’s islands were ‘vaporized’ by the tests,” the news agency wrote.