Marshall Island to launch injury claims against Nuclear testing nations

Marshall Islands

In what might be seen as one of the biggest David versus Goliath cases in terms of personal injury claims in a long time, news that the ‘David’-esque Marshall Islands is set to take on the considerable might of ‘Goliath’-like countries such as the UK, India and Pakistan has all the hallmarks of an almost biblical tussle.

Whilst personal injury claims (which ultimately lead to some form of financial compensation) usually tend to involve individuals taking on the big boys, rarely do we observe an individual country (albeit a relatively small one) challenging a trio of global power-breakers.

But that’s exactly what’s in the claims pipeline (admittedly on a vast scale) if the Marshall Islands receive the green light to take the aforementioned world superpowers (together with a further six countries) to task over the integral parts that all three countries have played in the on-going nuclear arms race which has ravaged this tiny territory in the Pacific Ocean and which is home to a population of just 55,000; spread out over a collection of individual islands.

Citing the pivotal roles Britain, India and Pakistan have assumed in direct relation to carrying out a series of nuclear tests within areas under the jurisdiction of the Marshall Islands’ governance, the diminutive country will attempt to persuade the United Nation’s highest court – the International Court of Justice – to help them file an official lawsuit against the three aforementioned countries on the grounds of them neglecting to halt the nuclear arms race.

As of March this year, the UN’s primary court will preside over preliminary hearings which will determine whether or not the accused countries have cases to answer to, and will essentially rule one way or another with regards to enabling the Marshall Islands to proceed with its claims.

The official line which the Pacific Ocean territory is using to legally orchestrate its case states that countries including the UK, India and Pakistan (along with China, France, America, Israel, North Korea and Russia) are – in its words – ‘not fulfilling their obligations with respect to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.’ An accusation which dates back to 2014, yet has taken until now before the Marshall Islands seek to pursue an acknowledgement of guilt and potential financial recompense from the parties responsible.

Paying special mention to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (which incidentally remains unsigned by the likes of both India and Pakistan for the record), the Marshall Islands’ seat of government based in the capital, Majuro has pointed the finger at these countries in light of their collective breach of obligations under this specific treaty, which essentially is a globally-binding agreement which originally set out to control and manage the on-going nuclear arms race.

Bikini Atoll bomb explosion

Picture capturing the Bikini Atoll nuclear test explosion in 1946 –

On account of the Islands themselves knowing only too well of the serious repercussions of nuclear testing in its own backyard so to speak, it’s been motivated to effectively sue the world’s nuclear big-hitters, with the government saying; “It has a particular awareness of the dire consequences of nuclear weapons.”

As back stories go, the case of the Marshall Islands doesn’t make for good reading, not least because between 1946 and 1958 the US undertook an extensive programme of nuclear testing within the parameters of the Marshall Islands, whilst in 1954 a hydrogen bomb was released at Bikini Atoll which subsequently vapourised an island and resulted in thousands of inhabitants living close by being exposed to potentially devastating radioactive fallout.

Carried out as part of the Cold War nuclear arms race over 60 years ago, the 15-megaton hydrogen bomb was said to have been some 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb which fell on Hiroshima towards the end of the Second World War. Former residents of Bikini Atoll have since been resettled there having lived in exile after the tests, with the US government declaring it safe to repopulate in the 1970s, yet this proved too optimistic as by the end of the decade residents were removed once again due to high levels of radiation being discovered in foods grown on the former test site.

To date the Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal has awarded upwards of $2 billion (1.4 billion Euros) in personal injury (and land damage) claims arising from the nuclear tests, yet stopped paying after a $150 million (110 million Euros) US compensation fund was exhausted.


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