David vs. Goliath? The Mouse That Roared? The Republic of the Marshall Islands Sues for Nuclear Disarmament
I don’t think either analogy is perfect, but some are using these references to describe lawsuits the Republic of the Marshall Islands has filed in the World Court against the United States and the eight other nuclear weapons states (France, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, North Korea, Israel, Pakistan and India) for failing to live up their obligation to pursue nuclear disarmament under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The lawsuits, supported by our colleagues at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, have been in the works for over a year, but were filed just over a week ago in advance of the NPT Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting at the United Nations in New York.
I, along with many other Peace Action activists, were in New York for various meetings around the NPT PrepCom, including official government statements, a briefing on the lawsuits featuring the Marshall Islands’ foreign minister, Tony de Brum, and a public event in Manhattan featuring Hibakusha (Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bomb survivors) telling their poignant stories of perseverance in the cause of nuclear weapons abolition.
The Marshall Islands, which suffered horrible human and environmental consequences from U.S. nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and 60s (dramatically chronicled in the film Nuclear Savage), are in a unique position to hold the U.S. and other nuclear states accountable for not only their lack of commitment to abolishing nukes, but that all are now engaged in working to “modernize” their nuclear weapons. A terrific website about the lawsuit is at nuclearzero.org
The United States offered this very weak list of bullet points allegedly demonstrating its commitment to nuclear disarmament:
1. Reduced U.S. nuclear stockpile by 85 percent since 1967.
2. Open to further reductions with Russia of up to one-third of deployed strategic weapons and of tactical weapons.
3. Participated in P5 conferences (editor’s note: P5 refers to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, also all nuclear weapons states).
4. Would like to ratify the CTBT.
5. May sign the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty and the Southeast Asian NWFZT. Support a conference on a Middle East NWFZT.
The full U.S. official statement to the PrepCom is at http://papersmart.unmeetings.org/media2/2927499/us.pdf
Plans for next year’s NPT Review Conference, which happen every five years, will soon be underway. Peace Action, along with national and international allies, will work to improve on our impressive organizing around the 2010 Review Conference, which included a conference at Riverside Church of over 1000 people (half from outside the U.S.) addressed by UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon and a rally and march with thousands of people demonstrating for peace and disarmament in midtown Manhattan.
-Kevin Martin, Executive Director