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Tiny Marshall Islands’ ‘David and Goliath’ suit takes on nuclear superpowers

Published time: April 25, 2014 03:04
Marshall Islands.(AFP Photo)

Marshall Islands.(AFP Photo)

The Marshall Islands, a small 70-square mile string of islands in the Pacific Ocean with a population in the tens of thousands, announced Wednesday it is suing nine nuclear powers, claiming each has violated an international weapons agreement.

The island chain is perhaps best known for hosting a number of US nuclear tests in the decades following World War II. A new suit filed in The Hague, Netherlands Thursday against each of the nine countries in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) claims that instead of working together toward disarmament, as rhetoric would imply, the world’s superpowers are in fact updating their nuclear arsenal and adapting it to the 21st Century.

The suit takes aim at the five countries named in the 1968 nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), which includes the US, China, France, the United Kingdom, and Russia (the benefactor of the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal). Also named are India, Pakistan, and North Korea, which are not included in the NPT. The Marshall Islands estimated that the combined nations will spend $1 trillion on their arsenal over the next decade.

Marshall Islands leaders asserted that countries where the nuclear weapons are being modernized are committing a “flagrant denial of human justice.” The suit does not call for any financial compensation, only the beginning of actions that would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world.

Our people have suffered the catastrophic and irreparable damage of these weapons, and we vow to fight so that no one else on earth will ever again experience these atrocities,” Tony de Brum, the country’s foreign minister, said in a statement to Agence France-Presse.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki refused to comment on the matter, with representatives from other countries named in the suit claiming they were unaware of any such court action.

The President of the California-based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, David Krieger, told the Associated Press that the case is especially notable because it comes from the Marshall Islands, although there is hope that other countries will join support the effort.

I personally see it as kind of David and Goliath, except there are no slingshots involved,” he said.

Already lending their names to the effort are Iranian-born rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi and Nobel Peace Prize winner South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who issued a statement saying the world “must ask why these leaders continue to break their promises and put their citizens and the world at risk of horrific devastation.”

Countries recognized in the NPT essentially agreed not to acquire new nuclear weapons, yet – while the number of nuclear weapons has dropped since the end of the Cold War – there are still 17,000 weapons in known existence, more than enough to completely destroy the planet.

The overwhelming majority of those weapons are under the control of the US and Russia, although the Marshall Islands also accused the UK, in particular, of breaking international law because of its ongoing effort to replace the submarine-launched Trident arsenal.

The UK has not pursued in good faith negotiations to cease the nuclear arms race at an early date through comprehensive nuclear disarmament or other measures, and instead is taking actions to improve its nuclear weapons system and to maintain it for the indefinite future,” the court documents said, as quoted the Guardian.

Krieger, the consultant, said smaller nations have become increasingly frustrated with the international superpowers over the past two decades as promising nuclear talks quickly ran out of steam and morphed into empty gestures.

One thing I would point to is the US withdrawal in 2002 from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; that cast a shadow over future disarmament movement,” he said. “One other thing, in 1995, the NPT had a review and was extended indefinitely. I think the nuclear states party to the treaty felt that once that happened, there was no longer pressure on them to fulfil their obligations.”

Comments (3)


Colin Shorey 27.04.2014 02:56

What are your comments going on about?
This is about the Marshall Islands and as usual the Yanks arrive under the guise of"Peace maker"
This was theft for nuclear trials and recompense is due.American influence is like a virus,it disrupts a way of life.
Once England welcomed the non-english,it becoming more difficult to see GB as it was.My country has been walked over thru lack of government control and its wealth pirated by banks and outside capitalist(not the best word but you understand)
I'm going back to bed .Give the M.Miles there dues then "G o home yanks!


Dutch guy 25.04.2014 07:54

Templar Knight 25.04.2014 05:57

If Israel stopped lying about these weapons, the USA would be forced to stop giving Israel $3 billion per year because American law disqualifies any country proliferating WMD's from receiving financial aid


They have no problems giving financial support to Pakistan, which also has nuclear weapons. They don't care about laws, not even their own laws.


John M. Wadsworth 25.04.2014 05:27

[quote name='Templar Knight' time='25.04.2014 05:09']What about the rogue state of Israel?

It has up to 400 nuclear weapons that it continues to lie about. NO INSPECTIONS here! I wonder why?
The USA is complicit in this lie.

JFK tried to force inspections and he was assassinated.[/quote ]

Nonsense. Israel is not a signatory of the NPT, and never has been one. Thus, there has never been any authority to demand inspections.

Furthermore, JFK never tried to "force" inspections. He asked for them and Israel obliged. Therefore, it could not have been the reason U.S. government operatives assassinated him.

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