Santa Barbara –The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) yesterday continued its efforts to compel the United States government to comply with its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), asking a Federal Court judge to reject the US government’s claim that the treaty cannot be enforced.
On April 24, 2014, the Marshall Islands filed a lawsuit in US 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.
On July 21, the US responded to these allegations by filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the issue of US compliance with the treaty is not subject to the Court’s jurisdiction. The US position fundamentally asks the Court to look the other way or, otherwise interpreted, takes the position that the US is above the law.
Yesterday, the RMI filed an Opposition to the US motion to dismiss, explaining why the Court cannot and should not look the other way.
“If the United States’ position is that in treaty disputes ‘might makes right,’ then I ask you, what does it mean—really—when a nation enters into a treaty with the United States?” said Laurie Ashton, attorney with the law firm Keller Rohrback LLP who serves as lead council for the Marshall Islands. “And what does the United States’ position say about its attempts to enforce other treaties, such as the Chemical Weapons Convention (recently against Syria), or, even more recently, the United States’ allegation that Russia is in breach of certain cruise missile test bans?”
The Opposition filed by the Marshall Islands explains, among other points:
- The Marshall Islands 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. Instead, the Marshall Islands makes the legally grounded argument that while the Non-Proliferation Treaty is in effect and the US is a party to it, there is no choice but for the US to comply with it.
- Prior rulings in US courts make it clear that it is the courts that determine compliance with the law, not the Executive.
- The US Constitution says “ALL” treaties are the supreme law of this nation. Not just some treaties, or the treaties the current President happens to prefer at any particular time.
- The NPT is a treaty, and under the plain language of our Constitution, the federal courts are charged with interpreting it, and resolving disputes involving it, such as this dispute.
“The US position in this suit has very poor implications for treaty enforcement—and those implications affect us all,” said Ashton.
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) is a consultant to the Marshall Islands on the legal and moral issues involved in bringing this case.
David Krieger, President of NAPF, commented, “The Marshall Islands is a small, gutsy country. It is not a country that will be bullied, nor is it one that will give up. It knows what is at stake with nuclear weapons and is fighting in the courtroom for humanity’s survival. The people of the Marshall Islands deserve our support and appreciation for taking this fight into US Federal Court and to the International Court of Justice, the highest court in the world. In similar lawsuits filed in the International Court of Justice, the RMI has sued all nine nuclear-armed countries for breaching their nuclear disarmament obligations.”
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 1.7 Hiroshima bombs being exploded daily for 12 years – resulted in lasting health and environmental problems for the Marshall Islanders. The RMI Nuclear Zero lawsuit against the US 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.
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.”