Marshall Islands sue Britain, India and Pakistan over nuclear weapons

LONDON: The tiny Marshall Islands will seek to persuade the UN’s highest court to take up a lawsuit against India, Pakistan and Britain, which it accuses of failing to halt the nuclear arms race.

The international court of justice – founded in 1945 to rule on legal disputes between nations – announced late on Friday dates for separate hearings for the three cases between March 7 and March 16.

In the cases brought against India and Pakistan, the court will examine whether the tribunal based in The Hague is competent to hear the lawsuits.

The hearing involving Britain will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

A decision will be made at a later date as to whether the cases can proceed.

In 2014, the Marshall Islands – a Pacific Ocean territory with 55,000 people – accused nine countries of “not fulfilling their obligations with respect to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament”.

They included China, Britain, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.

The government, based in the Marshall Islands capital of Majuro, said by not stopping the nuclear arms race, the countries continued to breach their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – even if the treaty has not been signed by countries such as India and Pakistan.

The Marshall Islands had decided to sue the world’s nuclear heavyweights as “it has a particular awareness of the dire consequences of nuclear weapons”, it said.

Between 1946 and 1958 the United States conducted repeated nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands, Majuro’s representatives said in papers filed in court.

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

In March 2014 the Marshall Islands marked 60 years since the devastating hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll that laid waste the island and exposed thousands in the surrounding area to radioactive fallout.

 

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