On July 21, 2014, the United States filed a motion to dismiss the Nuclear Zero lawsuit that was filed by the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) on April 24, 2014 in U.S. Federal Court.
The tiny Pacific nation of the Marshall Islands filed a lawsuit against the United States, claiming that the U.S. has breached its obligations under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) by continuing to modernize its nuclear arsenal and by failing to pursue negotiations in good faith on nuclear disarmament. The RMI requested that the Court declare the United States in breach of its Treaty obligations and order the U.S. to call for and convene, within one year from the Court’s judgment, negotiations on nuclear disarmament.
The RMI was used as the testing ground for 67 nuclear tests conducted by the United States from 1946 to 1958. These tests resulted in lasting health and environmental problems for the Marshall Islanders. The RMI lawsuit against the U.S. seeks no compensation, but rather, seeks to end the nuclear weapons threat, not only for itself, but for all humanity, now and in the future.
The U.S., in its move to dismiss the RMI lawsuit, does not argue that the U.S. is in compliance with its NPT disarmament obligations. Instead, it argues in a variety of ways that its non-compliance with these obligations is, essentially, justifiable, and not subject to the court’s jurisdiction.
Laurie Ashton, lead attorney representing the RMI, states, “The U.S. government assumes, as it must at this stage in the case, that the U.S. is in breach of its promises under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Nonetheless, the U.S. government argues that there is no legal remedy for those breaches—either because the breaches cause no harm or because the breaches raise only political issues, or because the Marshall Islands waited too long to complain in court about the breaches. These disappointing arguments hammer at the very foundation of every treaty to which the U.S. is a party, and the courts should reject them.”
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, upon hearing of the motion to dismiss the case by the U.S. responded, “The U.S. government is sending a terrible message to the world – that is, that U.S. courts are an improper venue for resolving disputes with other countries on U.S. treaty obligations. The U.S. is, in effect, saying that whatever breaches it commits are all right if it says so. That is bad for the law, bad for relations among nations, bad for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament – and not only bad, but extremely dangerous for U.S. citizens and all humanity.”
Krieger continued, “In 2009, President Obama shared his vision for the world, saying, ‘So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.’ This lawsuit provides the perfect opportunity for President Obama to move his vision forward. Yet, rather than seizing that opportunity, the U.S. government is seeking dismissal without a full and fair hearing on the merits of the case.”
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. In the case against the U.S., the RMI legal counsel has one month to respond to the U.S. government’s motion to dismiss.
To read the Motion to Dismiss in its entirety, visit www.wagingpeace.org/documents/motion_to_dismiss.pdf. For the latest updates on the Nuclear Zero lawsuit, visit www.nuclearzero.org.