Reading Room

International Court Fails to Decide Nuclear Disarmament Case

In a disappointing judgement, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) sided with several nuclear powers by claiming they lacked jurisdiction to hear the Republic of the Marshall Islands’ (RMI) nuclear disarmament cases against India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom.

These lawsuits were submitted by the RMI to the ICJ in 2014 with the intention of enforcing the nuclear disarmament obligations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty on the nine nuclear-armed states (U.S., Russia, UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea). Only the UK, India and Pakistan appeared before the ICJ. China, the U.S., Russia, France, Israel and North Korea chose to ignore the ICJ cases.

Today’s procedural ruling absolves the court of delving into the merits of these cases and the details of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The government of the RMI responded with the following:

“While these proceedings were initiated by a previous government administration, and have been carried forward, the Marshall Islands has – for decades – repeatedly reminded the international community that our own burden and experiences with nuclear detonation must never again be repeated – this includes Marshallese who petitioned the United Nations in 1954 and 1956 to cease the nuclear testing program during its status as a UN Trust Territory. Recent nuclear tests in North Korea are a stunning example of clearly unacceptable risks which remain with us all.

While it may be that there are several political pathways to sharply reducing – and eliminating – nuclear risk, further progress on nuclear disarmament appears stalled. Without further flexibility and political will by all sides of the table, and with all necessary actors – and without common agreement on a way forward, it is as though there is no visible path to a world free of nuclear weapons, and the peace and security which accompany it. Such a lack of progress is no way to honor or respond to the lesson that Marshallese people have offered the world.

We look forward to studying closely the Court’s opinion before commenting further.”

It is so brave of this tiny nation to challenge the nuclear weapons states. We thank the RMI for their continued leadership and commitment to nuclear disarmament.

The RMI also has a nuclear disarmament case pending against the United States in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in which Tri-Valley CAREs has submitted “Friend of the Court” briefs. We will keep you updated on how that case proceeds.