Meanwhile it’s three minutes to midnight.
And the Republic of the Marshall Islands has lost its case in the International Court of Justice. On a technicality, no less! Phon van den Biesen, lead attorney for the tiny island nation, which had sued the world’s nine nuclear powers — the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, France, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea — to begin real nuclear disarmament negotiations, said the case was dismissed earlier this month on a “microformality,” which in my layman’s grasp of the matter might be called, instead, a desperate legal copout.
The case, which, technically, was brought against only three of the nine nuclear powers, Great Britain, India and Pakistan (because those are the only three nations that acknowledge the binding authority of the ICJ), was dismissed — in a split decision that could be called the First World against the rest of humanity — on the grounds that there wasn’t sufficient evidence of a dispute between the parties, so the court had no jurisdiction to hear the case on its merits.
The ICJ’s dissenting judges (in the case against Great Britain, the verdict to dismiss was 9-7, against India and Pakistan it was 8-8), expressed as much incredulity as I did on hearing the news.
The Marshall Islands lawsuits (a second suit was also filed, specifically against the United States, in U.S. federal court, and is still pending) demanded compliance with Article VI of the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, signed by the U.S. in 1970, which reads: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes 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, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”
“General and complete disarmament — do these words actually have meaning?” I asked last January. “Right now the Marshall Islands stand alone among the nations of Planet Earth in believing that they do.”
This tiny nation of islands and atolls — this former U.S. territory — with a population of about 70,000, was the scene of 67 nuclear testblasts in the 1950s, back when bigger was better. Some people’s homes were destroyed for eternity. The islanders suffered ghastly and often lethal levels of radiation and were essentially regarded, by their U.S. overlords, as human guinea pigs — a fantastic opportunity to study the effects of nuclear fallout. Eventually the U.S. atoned for its destruction by paying the Republic of the Marshall Islands a pathetic $150 million “for all claims, past, present and future.”
Now this nation is trying to save the rest of the planet by insisting that nuclear disarmament negotiations must get underway.