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Marshall Islands warn over N-arms race at UN court

Marshall Islands warn over N-arms race at UN court

THE HAGUE: The Marshall Islands on Monday painted a vivid picture of the horrors of nuclear war decades after some of its atolls were vaporised in atomic tests, in an unusual legal battle against the nuclear arms race.

The small Pacific island nation opened a case against India, Pakistan and Britain in a David-versus-Goliath fight before the UN’s highest tribunal based in The Hague.

The Marshall Islands aims to shine a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers and representatives said on Monday, as they remembered apocalyptic scenes after US-led tests in the 1950s.




“Several islands in my country were vaporised and others are estimated to remain uninhabitable for thousands of years,” Tony deBrum, a Marshall Islands government minister, told the court.

He remembered in particular the “Castle Bravo” test of March 1, 1954, which he witnessed as a nine-year-old while fishing with his grandfather in an atoll, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) from the blast’s epicentre.

“The entire sky turned blood red,” deBrum recalled when US scientists exploded a hydrogen bomb, with a force 1,000 times stronger than the device dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

“Many died, or suffered birth defects never before seen and cancers as a result of contamination. “Judges at the International Court of Justice are holding a series of hearings over the next week-and-a-half to decide whether it is indeed competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan.

A third hearing against Britain, scheduled to start on Wednesday, will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshall Islands alleges that despite their suffering, the world’s nuclear powers have failed to comply with the terms of the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

They were “not fulfilling their obligations with respect to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament”. Britain has signed the NPT, but not India and Pakistan.

The hearings are starting just days after North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un on Friday ordered the country’s nuclear arsenal to be readied for pre-emptive use at any time, causing global concern.The Marshall Islands had sought to bring a case against nine countries: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States.

Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

And the ICJ has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan because they already recognised the ICJ’s authority.

Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2016

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