Tiny Marshall Islands challenging Nuclear Powers (Including India and Pakistan) in the International Court of Justice

By Karmanye Thadani

A tiny country in the Pacific Ocean, the Marshall Islands, has tried to employ international law to enforce nuclear disarmament by taking nuclear-armed countries, namely Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea, to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). While I am not familiar with the domestic politics or foreign policy of the Marshall Islands, on the face of it, this does seem to be a noble initiative not motivated by realpolitik. What makes this line of thinking more palatable is the explanation that the government of that country has itself given, which is that their people have been victims of 67 US nuclear tests for 12 years following the end of World War II, which caused lasting adverse health and environmental effects. Indeed, the Marshall Islands was a country that saw invasions by both the Japanese and the Americans, and until 1986, was not a fully sovereign country free from American domination, and the Americans used the Marshall Islands as a place for nuclear tests, with radioactive radiation causing cancer and other such diseases. Now, the Marshall Islands has attempted at taking up the task of preventing such a thing from happening anywhere, advocating complete nuclear disarmament. “Our people have suffered the catastrophic and irreparable damage of these weapons, and we vow to fight so that no one else on earth will ever again experience these atrocities,” the country’s foreign minister, Tony de Brum, said in a statement announcing the law suits. Several Nobel Peace Prize winners are said to support the legal action, including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Iranian-born human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi.

 While the idea is undoubtedly righteous, many have contended that nuclear weapons have themselves served as a deterrent to war in many cases and have, therefore, indirectly helped the cause of world peace, they having been employed only once, indeed with devastating effects, by the Americans in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.Read More »