San Francisco, CA – The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) today filed an unprecedented lawsuit in the U.S. Federal District Court in San Francisco to hold the United States government accountable for its flagrant violations of the international nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The small island nation, once used as a testing ground for nuclear bombs, says the United States has repeatedly broken its promise to pursue the abolition of nuclear weapons. Article VI of the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires the U.S. to pursue negotiations “in good faith” for an end to the nuclear arms race “at an early date” and for nuclear disarmament.
“The failure of the United States to uphold important commitments and respect the law makes the world a more dangerous place,” said Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a vocal backer of the lawsuit. “President Obama has said that ridding the world of these devastating weapons is a fundamental moral issue of our time. It is time for the United States to show true leadership by keeping the promises set forth in the Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
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The Nuclear Zero lawsuit (titled for the NPT promise of a world with zero nuclear weapons) filed today charges the United States with clearly violating its legal obligations by spending outrageous sums of money to enhance its nuclear arsenal and by failing to make real progress in nuclear disarmament. The U.S. plans to spend an estimated $1 trillion on nuclear weapons in the next three decades and currently possesses nearly half of the world’s 17,300 warheads.
The Marshall Islands does not seek compensation with the lawsuit. Rather, it seeks declaratory and injunctive relief requiring the United States to comply with its commitments under the treaty and begin clear action towards the agreed upon promises.
The United States conducted 67 nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands from 1946 to1958 and the health and environmental effects still plague the Marshall Islanders today. The 1954 “Castle Bravo” nuclear test was the largest the U.S. ever conducted – estimated to be 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed the city of Hiroshima.
“Our 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,” said Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Tony de Brum. “The continued existence of nuclear weapons and the terrible risk they pose to the world threatens us all.”
World leaders, international organizations, world-class experts and Nobel Peace Laureates have declared strong support for the lawsuit and denounced nuclear weapons as immoral (list on the website). The lawsuits are also supported by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF), a U.S.-based civil society organization consulting with the Marshall Islands and its pro bono legal team.
“Nuclear weapons threaten everyone and everything we love and treasure. They threaten civilization and the human species. After 46 years with no negotiations in sight, it is time to end this madness,” said David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. “The Marshall Islands is saying enough is enough. It is taking a bold and courageous stand on behalf of all humanity, and we at the Foundation are proud to stand by their side.”
The lawsuit filed today in U.S. Federal District Court in San Francisco is accompanied by related lawsuits brought in the International Court of Justice in The Hague against all nine nuclear weapons states: United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea.