The Marshall Islands’ plea against nuclear powers of the world, including India and Pakistan, was rejected today by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The rejection marked a defeat of activists seeking nuclear disarmament in the world. The top United Nations court accepted India’s argument that the International Court of Justice do not have any jurisdiction in the suits filed by the Marshall Islands.
Here we present everything you need to know about the Marshall Islands case.
What is the Marshall Islands?
Marshall islands is a small South Pacific nation with a population of 53,000. It was the site of dozens of atomic-bomb tests by the United States after the World War II.
As may as 23 nuclear devices were detonated by the US at Bikini atoll, which consists of 23 islands spread in 3.4 sq km area in the Marshall Islands, between 1946 and 1958. The area is still uninhabitable.
At an earlier hearing of the tiny nation’s case at the UN court, its representative had recalled that he watched one of the US nuclear tests in his home country as a nine-year-old boy while fishing with his grandfather. “The entire sky turned blood red,” he told judges in an emotional speech. He said some of his country’s islands were “vaporized” by the tests.
What was the Marshall Islands case?
Marshall Islands had filed a number of suits in the ICJ. Through the suits, Marshall Islands had sought to urge countries like Britain, India and Pakistan to resume negotiations to eradicate the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons.
The Marshall Islands had argued that nuclear powers weren’t doing enough to adhere to the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Which countries were named in the original case by Marshall Islands?
The Marshall Islands originally filed cases against all nine nations that have declared or are believed to possess nuclear weapons: The U.S., Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea. But only the cases against Britain, India, and Pakistan got to the preliminary stage of proceedings.
The other nuclear powers – including declared powers China, France, Russia and the United States, as well as undeclared nuclear states Israel and North Korea – did not respond to the suit the islands filed last year.
What is ICJ’s stand on nuclear disarmament?
In a 1996 advisory opinion, the ICJ had said that using or threatening to use nuclear arms would “generally be contrary to” the laws of war and humanitarian law. But it added that it could not definitively rule on whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be legal “in an extreme circumstance of self-defense, in which the very survival of a state would be at stake.”
The judges in 1996 also unanimously stated that there is a legal obligation “to pursue in good faith” nuclear disarmament talks.
Why the ICJ rejected Marshall Islands’ case against India, others?
According to the ICJ Court President Ronny Abraham, Marshall Islands failed to prove that a legal dispute over disarmament existed between it and the three nuclear powers before the case was filed in 2014, and that “consequently the court lacks jurisdiction.” The world court accepted India’s argument that the ICJ had no jurisdiction in marshall Islands suit.
What next for Marshall Islands, nuclear disarmament campaign?
The ICJ decision is a huge disappointment for Marshall Islands as well as for activists who still fight for a nuclear-free world.
(Inputs from agencies)