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Marshall Islands sues nine nuclear powers over failure to disarm via the Guardian

Pacific nation that was site of 67 nuclear tests between 1946 and 1958 accuses states of ‘flagrant denial of human justice’

Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, where a 15-megaton device equivalent to a thousand Hiroshima blasts, detonated in 1954. Photograph: US Air Force – digital versionThe Marshall Islands is suing the nine countries with nuclear weapons at the international court of justice at The Hague in an unprecedented legal action arguing the states have violated their legal obligation to disarm.

In nine separate cases brought before the ICJ on Thursday, accusing the nuclear weapons states of a “flagrant denial of human justice”, the Republic of the Marshall Islands argues it is justified in taking the action because of the harm it suffered as a result of the nuclear arms race.

The Pacific chain of islands including Bikini Atoll and Enewetak was the site of 67 nuclear tests from 1946 to 1958, including the “Bravo shot”, a 15-megaton device equivalent to a thousand Hiroshima blasts, detonated in 1954. The Marshallese islanders say they have been suffering serious health and environmental effects ever since.

The island republic is suing the five “established” nuclear weapons states recognised in the 1968 nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) – the US, Russia (which inherited the Soviet arsenal), China, France and the UK – as well as the three countries outside the NPT who have declared nuclear arsenals – India, Pakistan and North Korea, and the one undeclared nuclear weapons state, Israel.

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Although the size of the arsenals are sharply down from the height of the cold war, the Marshall Island legal case notes there remain over 17,000 warheads in existence, 16,000 of them owned by Russia and the US – enough to destroy all life on the planet.

“The long delay in fulfilling the obligations enshrined in article VI of the NPT constitutes a flagrant denial of human justice,” the court documents say.

The Marshall Islands case draws attention to the fact that the weapons states are currently in the process of modernising their nuclear weapons, which it portrays as a clear violation of the NPT.

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