The Pacific Nation of Marshall Islands filed a lawsuit in the International Court of Justice, UN’s judicial branch and the highest judiciary in world, against India for allegedly failing to halt the nuclear arms race between Pakistan, UK and India. On Wednesday UN court threw out Marshall Islands case because it lacked jurisdiction. Judge Ronny Abraham told the International Court of Justice in the Hague that the UN court upholds India’s objection to jurisdiction and finds that it cannot proceed to merits of the case.
In April 2014, Marshall Islands had sued the five member countries of UN Security Council- China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Along with that it had also sued India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea, in view that they had failed to bring clear negotiations to nuclear disarmament. But among all the countries sued, the other six countries never acceded to the ICJ court, therefore it accepted cases against India, Pakistan, and the UK only.
The Islanders of the Marshall Islands have had a long, bitter history with nuclear weapons as their land was Ground Zero for 67 nuclear weapon tests of America from 1946- 1958 at Bikini and Enewetak Atoll, while they were still under the jurisdiction of America. The nuclear weapon tests included the 1954 hydrogen bomb ‘Bravo’ which was about 1000 times bigger than the Hiroshima atomic bomb and is so far considered world’s most powerful bomb detonated by US. But it resulted in forced evacuations of numerous islanders from their ancestral lands, although thousands were already victims of radioactivity due to the explosion. Lands were left uninhabitable. A former Marshall Islands Foreign Minister, Tony DeBrum was quoted expressing his personal experience of the explosion at an ICJ hearing, “The entire sky turned blood red. Many died, or suffered birth defects never before seen and cancers as a result of contamination.”
The Islands claimed that by not stopping the nuclear arms race between UK, India and Pakistan, India has breached the 1968 Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, even if New Delhi and Islamabad haven’t signed any pacts. But the Islands want these three countries with nuclear power to take necessary measures to carry out what it considers to be obligations under the treaty, that is “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.” Experience such as they had with the explosions maintains for the people of the Islands to testify with authority about the devastating impact of such arms.
The International Court of Justice, though, accepted Indian arguments that ICJ has no jurisdiction in the case.
The critics believe that the real fight here is the islanders’ fight with Washington. The ICJ action is just a distraction. Their argument develops from the fact that the Americans were the ones who carried out tests in the islanders land. They assert that the case has no relation to the victims’ claim for increased compensation, better health care and clean-ups to render the sites habitable again.