US seeks dismissal as nuke lawsuit gains support

Islanders’ justice bill nears US$2.3 billion

When the Marshall Islands filed legal action in late April against nine nuclear nations at the International Court of Justice and against the United States in federal district court, it simultaneously stunned the world while sparking an outpouring of media reportage and comment. The filings also surprised almost everyone in the Marshall Islands, including many political leaders. The point of the legal actions at the ICJ against the United States, North Korea, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Israel, France, Russia, China, and India and in U.S. federal court against the U.S. government is to gain court declarations that these nuclear nations are in violation of disarmament obligations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The Marshall Islands and its Foreign Minister, Tony deBrum, who described himself as a “co-agent” in the filings with the U.S.- based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, have received widespread praise from the global anti-nuclear movement. The latest expression of support came in early August when the International Peace Bureau announced it will award its annual Sean MacBride Peace Prize for 2014 to the people and government of the Marshall Islands “for courageously taking the nine nuclear weapons-possessing countries to the International Court of Justice to enforce compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty and international customary law.”

The filings have been more controversial at home. Rongelap Senator Kenneth Kedi, who represents the population most heavily affected by radioactive fallout from the 1954 Bravo hydrogen bomb test at Bikini questioned the lack of consultation by the government with leaders of nuclear-affected atolls in the country and expressed concern that the lawsuits could negatively impact Rongelap efforts aimed at addressing compensation claims.

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