• Thursday, June 08, 2023


World court rejects Marshall Islands suit against India and Pakistan

A 1952 file photograph of a hydrogen bomb test on Marshall Islands

By: Eastern Eye Staff

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Wednesday (October 5) rejected suits filed by the tiny Marshall Islands against the world’s nuclear powers that sought to force them to do more to disarm.

Though the suits failed on procedural grounds, India, Pakistan and Britain were brought to the court to answer the complaint at public hearings in April.

In its ruling in the country’s case against India, the first of the three to be decided on Wednesday, the court said it had accepted Indian arguments that the ICJ, also known as the world court, should not have jurisdiction in the case.

Judges said that while the Marshall Islands may not be satisfied with progress on nuclear disarmament, it had failed to show that it has any ongoing legal dispute with India fit for the court to adjudicate.

It later rejected the Marshall Islands’ suit against Pakistan on the same grounds. The third suit, against Britain, was still to be decided.

The other nuclear powers – including declared powers China, France, Russia and the United States, as well as undeclared nuclear states Israel and North Korea – did not respond to the suit the islands filed last year.

The Marshall Islands, population 53,000, was the site of dozens of atomic-bomb tests by the US after the Second World War. It had argued that nuclear powers were failing to adhere to the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, notably by developing a new generation of “tactical” nuclear weapons.

In 1996, at the request of the UN General Assembly, the ICJ issued an advisory opinion on nuclear weapons. Besides finding them probably illegal unless possibly used in self defence, it also found that countries are obliged “to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects”.

But the court ruled that given its lack of jurisdiction, it would not consider the Marshall Islands’ arguments on their merits.

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