Marshall Islands Challenges Nuclear Weapons at the International Court of Justice
March 11, 2016
Rick Wayman and Jackie Cabasso / Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Why Are the Marshall Islands Taking India and Pakistan to Court Over Nuclear Weapons? The tiny Pacific island state is trying to hold nuclear weapons states accountable to their disarmament commitments. It was an historic day at the International Court of Justice, as oral arguments in the first-ever contentious cases on nuclear disarmament began on March 7 at The Hague.
Day One at the ICJ: Marshall Islands Shines Against India
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
THE HAGUE, The Netherlands (March 7, 2016) -- It was an historic day at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), as oral arguments in the first-ever contentious cases on nuclear disarmament began at the ICJ. The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) argued strongly in favor of the ICJ holding jurisdiction in the case that the RMI has brought against India.
Tony de Brum, co-agent of the RMI and former foreign minister, opened the arguments with a strong statement explaining why the case is before the ICJ. He said, "We are here in peace, and our goal is no smaller than to obtain the required negotiations in good faith for nuclear disarmament."
Mr. de Brum went on to describe his personal experience as a witness to many of the 67 US nuclear tests that were conducted in the Marshall Islands from 1946-58. He then told the court:
"To be clear, while these experiences give us a unique perspective that we never requested, they are not the basis of this dispute.
"But they do help explain why a country of our size and limited resources would risk bringing a case such as this regarding an enormous, nuclear-armed state such as India, and its breach of customary international law with respect to negotiations for nuclear disarmament and an end to the nuclear arms race."
India has raised objections with the ICJ that the Court does not have jurisdiction in this case for a number of reasons. The RMI legal team addressed India's objections and argued effectively against them.
Nicholas Grief, a member of the RMI legal team and professor of international law at the University of Kent in the UK, explained why India has an obligation under customary international law to negotiate in good faith for nuclear disarmament.
In particular, Professor Grief explained that the Court had recognized this customary obligation in its 1996 Advisory Opinion and that the UN General Assembly and Security Council had both contributed to the rule's development. He recalled that the Court itself had referred to the very first General Assembly resolution, adopted unanimously in 1946, as the starting point for nuclear disarmament as an international norm.
Among many other legal arguments, Grief also cited a 2009 UN Security Council resolution which calls upon "the parties to the NPT, pursuant to Article VI of the Treaty, to undertake to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to nuclear arms reduction and disarmament," and calls upon "all other states to join in this endeavor."
In February 2014, India stated at the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, "We cannot accept the logic that a few nations have the right to pursue their security by threatening the survival of mankind. It is not only those who live by the nuclear sword who, by design or default, shall one day perish by it."
The Marshall Islands, by bringing these lawsuits against India and the other nuclear-armed nations to the ICJ, seeks a peaceful resolution for the benefit of all humankind.
The ICJ oral hearings continue tomorrow at 10:00 am CET, with the RMI presenting arguments in its case against Pakistan.
Day Four: Aspirational Rhetoric vs. Real Actions
Rick Wayman and Jackie Cabasso / Nuclear Age Peace Foundation & Pressenza.com
THE HAGUE, The Netherlands (March 10, 2016) -- India presented oral arguments today at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the nuclear disarmament case brought by the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). India has challenged the jurisdiction of the ICJ to hear this case, and has also claimed that the case is inadmissible.
The current issue to be determined by the Court is whether jurisdiction is valid and whether it should hear the case on the merits.
Nevertheless, India's Co-Agent, Amandeep Singh Gill, presented many arguments about the merits of the case. Mr. Gill -- and other members of India's legal team -- repeatedly insisted that India, alone among the nuclear-armed states, is fully committed to global nuclear disarmament.
Only India, they said, co-sponsors the annual UN General Assembly resolution "Follow-up to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons."
In 1996, the ICJ found unanimously that "[t]here exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control."
Reciting a long list of India's public statements since 1964 and votes on disarmament resolutions in the UN General Assembly, India argued it is fully aligned with the Marshall Islands on the need for disarmament. India's Co-Agent claimed, "Among the nuclear weapons states, India's nuclear programme is unique in being technology driven rather than weapons driven."
In a stunning case of "Rhetoric vs. Reality," media reports say that the Indian military plans to test-fire its nuclear-capable K-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile this week, while oral arguments are still being heard at the ICJ.
In addition, according to a 2015 report by Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris, India is developing several long-range ballistic missiles and continues to deploy fighter-bomber aircraft.
Oral arguments in the case against India will conclude next week with a 90-minute presentation by the Marshall Islands on Monday and a final 90-minute presentation from India on Wednesday.
Hearings at the ICJ continue tomorrow from 3:00-6:00 pm CET with the Marshall Islands arguing against the United Kingdom. The proceedings will be live-streamed at www.icj-cij.org.
Rick Wayman is Director of Programs at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Jackie Cabasso is Executive Director of Western States Legal Foundation. They are tweeting about the ICJ hearings at @rickwayman and @jackiecabasso.
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