Nuclear Zero: The Marshall Islands Face Nuclear-Armed States at the International Court of Justice

On Monday March 7, 2016, the Marshall Islands faced off the UK, India, and Pakistan at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in search of an international ruling that would order these three countries to dismantle their nuclear arsenals on the islands’ territory. The sprawling chain of volcanic islands and coral atolls in the central Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and the Philippines, argues the UK breached its obligation to negotiate a nuclear disarmament deal under the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It also alleges that India and Pakistan, which are not parties to the NPT, breached similar obligations under customary international law. Finally, the tiny south Pacific State claims, the health and lives of its citizens have been destroyed by the dozens of nuclear tests conducted on its territory between 1946 and 1958.

The Marshall Islands initially filed cases against the United States, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. However, having accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction, only the cases against the UK, India, and Pakistan have reached the current preliminary stage of proceedings before the Court. The remaining States, all of which are known for their nuclear weapons arsenals, have refused to participate.

The UK, India, and Pakistan are expected to present their arguments before the ICJ soon. All three of them are expected to argue that the Marshall Islands’ claims are beyond the ICJ’s jurisdiction. While a final verdict from the court on this issue could take several months, one thing is clear: the archipelago’s campaign may open a space for small, and commonly perceived as powerless, countries to bring important claims, such as global disarmament, before international tribunals.

For more information:

NPR – http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/03/07/469521887/tiny-marshall-islands-taking-on-3-world-nuclear-powers-in-court?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20160307

Business Insider – http://www.businessinsider.com/the-worlds-highest-court-will-hear-a-case-from-a-tiny-island-country-in-the-pacific-thats-taking-on-3-nuclear-nations-2016-3

The Guardian – http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/10/marshall-islands-begins-legal-action-aimed-at-global-nuclear-disarmament

The Diplomat – http://thediplomat.com/2016/03/why-are-the-marshall-islands-taking-india-and-pakistan-to-court-over-nuclear-weapons/

ICJ Press Release – http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/159/18926.pdf

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