Judge White granted the U.S. government’s motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that the RMI, although a party to the NPT, lacked standing to bring the case. White also ruled that the lawsuit is barred by the political question doctrine.
Laurie Ashton, counsel for the RMI, respectfully expressed disappointment with the Court’s ruling, saying, “The next step is an appeal of the Court’s Order to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. As the RMI continues to pursue legal remedies to enforce the most important clause of the NPT, we implore the U.S. to honor its binding Article VI obligations, and call for and pursue the negotiations that have never begun—namely negotiations in good faith relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament.”
The RMI remains engaged in the three lawsuits for which there is compulsory jurisdiction at the ICJ – those against India, Pakistan and the UK. To learn more about the Nuclear Zero lawsuits, go to nuclearzero.org.
The Islands’ move might come off as more than a bit incongruous given its established existence as a pillar of the US-Israeli axis in UN forums. Glance at any review of General Assembly votes on Israel/Palestine issues and you’ll find the Marshall Islands regularly represented in the exclusive anti-Palestine camp, along with a smattering of other obscure Pacific atolls.
The fact that justice in Palestine continues to be as elusive as ever, despite nominal support from an overwhelming majority of countries, underscores both the general futility of taking on the powers that be as well as the frequent toothlessness of rulings emanating from UN institutions.
The Marshall Islands presumably has some inkling of the force it’s now up against.
Lexical fallout aside, other US contributions to Marshallese culture include the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll, which continues to generate revenue for US corporations.
The widespread territorial displacement necessitated by the previous era of fanatical nuclear testing meanwhile highlights the irony of Marshallese government support for the US-funded entity that displaces and otherwise oppresses Palestinians.
Of course, human beings are contradictory creatures, and nations composed of lots of human beings are thus inevitably also contradictory. But in assessing the prospects for the Islands’ foray into the International Court of Justice, it’s worth taking the contradictions into account.
Connecting the dots
The New York Times points out that the court case “comes as nuclear arms are increasingly being linked to other pressing international issues” such as climate change – which produces rising sea levels that incidentally also pose an existential threat to the Marshall Islands.
The Times quotes Marshallese Foreign Minister Tony de Brum on the seemingly parallel threats to survival: “What would it gain mankind to reach a peaceful resolution of the climate change threat, only to be wiped out by a nuclear misunderstanding?”
There are certainly common denominators between climate change and nukes – not least that both are filed away in many of our brains under the category of things that we know can swiftly destroy us but would prefer not to think about.
However, there appears to be a missing link in de Brum’s analysis, because you can’t resolve the climate change threat without resolving the business of imperial militarism, in both its nuclear and non-nuclear varieties.
The connection between the military-industrial complex and environmental catastrophe is fairly clearly spelled out in Project Censored‘s annual report from 2010, which confirms the US Department of Defense as the worst polluter on the planet.
While it may not be very coherent of the Marshall Islands to assist the empire in some destructive endeavours and take it to task for others, its nuclear lawsuit should nonetheless be encouraged – if for no other reason than the possibly vain hope that awareness can help combat inertia.
And another vain hope: that with attention will come context.
Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, published by Verso. She is a contributing editor at Jacobin Magazine.
Backing the island’s legal move are more than a dozen international law experts, who have donated time to assist with the case, and a coalition of 55 international peace and other activist groups, according to the Times.
“This case will help clarify where we stand in arms control law and perhaps sharpen the obligation to disarm,” Nico Schrijver, head of the law school at Leiden University in the Netherlands, told the Times. “It has merit in a time of growing international tension. But I see a host of legal hurdles ahead.”
Six decades later, with Mr. de Brum now his country’s foreign minister, the memory of those thundering skies has driven him to a near-Quixotic venture: His tiny country is hauling the world’s eight declared nuclear powers and Israel before the International Court of Justice. He wants the court to order the start of long-promised talks for a convention to ban atomic arsenals, much like the treaties that already prohibit chemical, biological and other weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. de Brum says the initiative is not about seeking redress for the enduring contamination and the waves of illness and birth defects attributed to radiation. Rather, by turning to the world’s highest tribunal, a civil court that addresses disputes between nations, he wants to use his own land’s painful history to rekindle global concern about the nuclear arms race.
The legal action is expected to run into plenty of legal and political obstacles. Even if the court decides in favor of the Marshall Islands, it has no way to enforce its decision. Prospects of any nuclear power heeding such a ruling anytime soon, experts say, are, obviously, exceedingly slim. But some say the action will shine a light on a serious but neglected issue.
“This case will help clarify where we stand in arms control law and perhaps sharpen the obligation to disarm,” said Nico Schrijver, who heads the law school at Leiden University in the Netherlands and is not involved in the case. “It has merit in a time of growing international tension. But I see a host of legal hurdles ahead.”
The civil suit comes as nuclear arms are increasingly being linked to other pressing international issues, such as the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity and the effort to combat climate change.
More than a dozen international law experts have donated time to assist the tiny Marshall Islands, a string of atolls with 70,000 inhabitants. Rick Wayman, the director of programs at the California-based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, said that a coalition of 55 international peace and other activist groups were backing the initiative.
One of the key questions that the court’s 15-judge bench is likely to consider is whether modernizing existing arsenals amounts to a new arms race forbidden under existing agreements. The United States and Russia, which control most of the world’s nuclear weapons, have cut old stockpiles and agreed to further reductions under a 2010 bilateral accord. But both countries, along with China, are now engaged in major upgrading of their missile systems. Pakistan and India have been in an arms race for more than 15 years.
The court is also being asked to establish a new disarmament calendar. The Marshall Islands’ suit asks that the nuclear powers begin negotiations on a disarmament treaty one year after the court’s ruling. But, as John Burroughs, director of the New York-based Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, noted: “There have never even been any multilateral negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons since the 1968 nonproliferation treaty.”
One big question is whether the judges would go beyond an opinion they issued in 1996. Asked to advise the United Nations General Assembly, the judges said unanimously that the obligation existed “to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion” negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament. Experts say the bench may be more divided this time.
It is far from clear how the judges will vote. Although the bench is meant to be independent, six of the 15 judges come from nuclear powers — the five original nations plus India. Heikelina Verrijn Stuart, co-author of “The Building of Peace,” a comprehensive history of the International Court of Justice, said that politics have usually trumped international law and that in the majority of the court’s cases, judges have ruled in favor of their country of origin. “Most states simply do not accept a higher legal authority,” she said, adding, “however there is no reason to suggest that the I.C.J. judges are in any way instrumental to the politics of their country of origin.”
Among the nuclear powers, only Britain, India and Pakistan have recognized the court’s jurisdiction as compulsory; the others choose whether to opt in. So far, only China has replied, stating that it will not accept the court’s jurisdiction in this case, said Mr. van den Biesen, the lawyer.
Mr. de Brum is not discouraged, arguing that his nation is justified in taking action because it has suffered the effects of nuclear testing and is now threatened by rising sea levels.
US Government Injected Citizens with Uranium Under Secret Program: Flashback
Files reveal feds posing as doctors experimented on public
If you still think the United States government would never harm its own citizens for the benefit of federal agencies, then I would direct your attention to a formerly classified black ops program launched by the US government starting way back in 1945. With the goal of testing highly radioactive substances on overall healthy patients through secret injections administered by government agents, the program has still been widely ignored since being released to the public in recent years.
Ebb Cade was taken and bound to a bed with a broken arm and leg, where doctors interviewed him regarding his current state of health. After determining he was in a state of proper health, doctors secretly injected him with 4.7 micrograms of plutonium on Aptil 10th. It is still unknown who exactly ordered the program within the U.S. government, as they have managed to disassociate themselves with the entire nefarious program. At the time of the injection, scientists were perfectly aware of the negative effects associated with radiation. With cancers and radiation sickness on the rise, these scientists knew exactly what they were doing — examining the effects of plutonium isotopes on living beings.
Prior to the tests on Cade, the scientists injected animals with plutonium and noted the severe adverse effects. In some cases, animals were even fed radioactive waste. In fact, one scientist received a face full of gas and required his stomach to be pumped along with a full face scrub in an attempt to eliminate the threat. The scientists made sure that they were given the full treatment after the exposure. Meanwhile, they were injecting individuals with plutonium.
Scientists took excretions from Cade over the next five days to see how much plutonium retained in his body. They also refused to set his broken bones until April 15th, and cut samples from the bone before doing so to examine the plutonium content in his bone tissue. Fifteen of his teeth were pulled for testing. After all of this, they never informed Cade what they were doing. One nurse said that the tortured Cade escaped in the middle of the night, and he was later found to die in 1953 of heart failure.
Sadly, Cade was not the last test experiment.
Three human experiments followed, all cancer patients seeking treatment. Instead of treatment, the patients were injected with deadly plutonium in order for government scientists to see the effects. A man in his sixties with lung cancer, a woman in her fifties with breast cancer, and a “young man” with Hodgkin’s lymphoma were all given the poison. Conveniently, the third patient’s records are not available. He was injected with fifteen times more than any other individual, at 95 micrograms. What followed is further widespread testing. The University of Rochester joined the program, injecting patients with not only plutonium but radioactive isotopes like polonium and uranium. Other institutions like the University of California soon followed suit.
The list goes on, targeting minorities and the disabled in particular. From forced sterilizations to incognito injections, there is a lengthy history of government testing that shows the blatant disregard for your health by the United States government and elsewhere. With this in mind, is it any wonder why the FDA keeps toxic substances like mercury unregulated among the food supply?
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The tiny Pacific republic of the Marshall Islands, scene of massive U.S. nuclear tests in the 1950s, sued the United States and eight other nuclear-armed countries on Thursday, accusing them of failing in their obligation to negotiate nuclear disarmament.
The Pacific country accused all nine nuclear-armed states of “flagrant violation of international law” for failing to pursue the negotiations required by the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
It filed one suit specifically directed against the United States, in the Federal District Court in San Francisco, while others against all nine countries were lodged at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, capital of the Netherlands, a statement from an anti-nuclear group backing the suits said. The action was supported by South African Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation said.
“We must ask why these leaders continue to break their promises and put their citizens and the world at risk of horrific devastation. This is one of the most fundamental moral and legal questions of our time.”
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation is a U.S.-based non-partisan advocacy group working with the Marshall Islands and its international pro-bono legal team.
The Marshall Islands, a grouping of 31 atolls, was occupied by Allied forces in 1944 and placed under U.S. administration in 1947.
A copy of the suit against the United States made available to Reuters says that it is not aimed at seeking compensation from the United States for the testing in the Marshall Islands, which became an independent republic in 1986.
Under agreements between the United States and the Marshall Islands, a Nuclear Claims Tribunal was established to assess and award damages to victims of the nuclear tests. But it has never had the cash to compensate fully for the damage done.
The suit against the United States said it should take “all steps necessary to comply with its obligations … within one year of the date of this Judgment, including by calling for and convening negotiations for nuclear disarmament in all its aspects.”
“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,” the statement quoted Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Tony de Brum as saying.