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Marshall Islands Case Moves Forward with Our Support

The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) has continued its efforts to compel the United States government to comply with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), asking the ninth circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the District Court’s decision to dismiss the case and to remand the case to require the U.S. government to answer the complaint.

On April 24, 2014, the Marshall Islands filed a lawsuit in U.S. Federal Court, alleging the United States has violated its moral and legal obligations under the NPT by refusing to negotiate in good faith toward complete nuclear disarmament. The NPT is an international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament. Article VI of the NPT requires that each of the parties to the Treaty must pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to ending the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.

On July 21, 2014, the U.S. responded to these allegations by filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the issue of U.S. compliance with the treaty is not subject to the Court's jurisdiction. The District Court granted the government’s motion based on lack of standing and the political question doctrine.

On July 10, 2015, The Marshall Islands filed an appeal with the ninth circuit Court of Appeals. The brief explains how the political question doctrine is not appropriate in this case since the NPT is a treaty that is already made and properly ratified, creating legal rights and obligations. RMI is not asking the Court to decide whether the United States should enter into the NPT, or whether the NPT is a good or a bad treaty for the United States, which could possibly be considered a political question. Instead, the Marshall Islands makes the legally grounded argument that while the Non-Proliferation Treaty is in effect and the U.S. is a party to it, there is no choice but for the U.S. to comply with it.

Tri-Valley CAREs filed an Amicus Curiae (friend of the court) brief in the lower court regarding the proper venue. The RMI wish to have the case heard in the Northern District of California, home to significant nuclear weapons research and development at Livermore Lab.

On Friday, July 17th 2015, Tri-Valley CAREs’ filed another Amicus Curiae brief, this time in the Court of Appeal, focused on how the activities at the Lab illustrates the failure of the US to meet its obligations to negotiate nuclear disarmament in good faith under the NPT. Tri-Valley CAREs also describes the significant nuclear weapons work being done at Livermore and the legal basis for maintaining venue in the Northern District of California as preferred by the RMI.

The RMI was used as the testing ground for 67 nuclear tests conducted by the United States from 1946 to 1958. These tests - equivalent to 1.6 Hiroshima bombs being exploded daily for 12 years - resulted in lasting health and environmental problems for the Marshall Islanders. The 1952 test of the first U.S. hydrogen bomb was code named "Ivy Mike". As a result of this test, the island of Elugelab in the Enewetak atoll was destroyed. The RMI Nuclear Zero lawsuit against the U.S. seeks no compensation, but rather, seeks action to commence and conclude negotiations for complete nuclear disarmament by 2020, thus ending the nuclear weapons threat for all humanity, now and in the future.

David Krieger, the President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation noted, “The Marshall Islands is the most courageous country on the planet. It is standing up to the nuclear-armed nations, demanding that they fulfill their legal obligations for nuclear disarmament. Its Appeal Brief in the U.S. case makes strong sense and shows that it is a country that will not give up or give in.”

Tony de Brum, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Marshall Islands, emphasizes that the Marshallese 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." As a response to the dismissal of this case in the lower court, Tony de Brum made a statement to the Marshall Islands Parliament stating, “Nuclear weapons are not our friend, nor the friend of the U.S. or any other country. Rather, these weapons are the enemy of all humankind. That is why we will stand up for what we believe in . . . .”