April 2, 2015 – The lawsuit brought by the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) against the United States is not going away anytime soon. While the case was dismissed on February 3, 2015 by the U.S. Federal District Court for the Northern District of California, this small island nation today took the important step of formally filing its Notice of Appeal.
The lawsuit, referred to as the Nuclear Zero Lawsuit, claims the U.S. is in breach of its legal obligations under Article VI of the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to pursue negotiations in good faith for an end to the nuclear arms race and for nuclear disarmament. This is especially important as there is a growing awareness in the world that the continued possession and modernization of nuclear arsenals constitutes a clear and continuing threat to our planet. This threat is now magnified by the deteriorating relationships between Russia and the U.S., which between them control over 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.
Earlier this year, U.S. Federal District Court dismissed the case on the jurisdictional grounds of standing and political question doctrine without getting to the merits of the case. Laurie Ashton, lead attorney for the RMI in the U.S. case, expressed strong disagreement with the court’s ruling, saying, “We believe the District Court erred in dismissing the case. The Marshall Islands, like every party to the NPT, is entitled to the United States’ fulfillment of its NPT promise – negotiations for nuclear disarmament. Further, the U.S. President does not enjoy exclusive purview to determine the U.S. breach of its treaty obligations. Instead, the judiciary has an obligation to rule in this treaty dispute.”
Marshall Islanders suffered catastrophic and irreparable damages to their people and homeland when the U.S. conducted 67 nuclear tests on their territory between 1946 and 1958. These tests had the equivalent power of exploding 1.6 Hiroshima bombs daily for 12 years. The devastating impact of these nuclear detonations to health and well-being of the Marshall Islanders and to their land continues to this day.
David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and consultant to the RMI in the case, made the following statement. “Knowing how high the stakes are, the Marshall Islands will not give up. They are a resilient and heroic people who have taken bold action against the nuclear giants of the world. They will continue to struggle on behalf of all humanity until the nuclear-armed nations have fulfilled their obligations to abolish every last one of their nuclear weapons.”
RMI Foreign Minister Tony de Brum said of the appeal, “We are in this for the long haul. We remain steadfast in our belief that nuclear weapons benefit no one and that what is right for humankind will prevail. We place great importance in and hold high respect for the American judicial process and will pursue justice in that spirit, using every available legal avenue to see that Nuclear Zero is achieved in my lifetime.”
For more information about the Nuclear Zero lawsuits, visit nuclearzero.org.