Marshall Islands V. Nuclear Nine

Avner Cohen
Lily Vaccaro
May 6, 2014

Marshall Islands 1954 Nuclear Testing, WikiMedia Commons

Marshall Islands 1954 Nuclear Testing, WikiMedia Commons

View the full Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists article.

On April 24, 2014 the Marshall Islands, best known for being the unwilling host of 67 US nuclear tests, filed nine lawsuits against states possessing nuclear weapons in the International Court of Justice in the Hague. This is an unprecedented attempt to prompt a ruling that would re-characterize the NPT as international customary law, force the 4 nuclear states who are not members of the NPT to follow the disarmament obligation under the treaty, and admonish all nine states for failing to follow through with Article VI of the NPT and pursue disarmament in “good faith.”

The lawsuit challenges a number of issues these states have so far avoided. Most notably it is an effort to force the five Nuclear Weapons States under the NPT to address the legality of their nuclear weapons possession. The question of the legality of nuclear weapons possession would, of course, be a much more loaded ruling than the advisory opinion the ICJ issued in 1997 on the legality of the using, and threatening to use, nuclear weapons. It also threatens the other four states exemption to abiding the treaty they are not party to. In the case of Israel, it is the first non-Arab state to challenge its longstanding policy of nuclear opacity, or amimut.

The lawsuit is part of an increasingly influential movement emphasizing the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and seeking a legally binding commitment to disarm, similar to the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines in the 90s.

See the full article in which Avner Cohen and Lily Vaccaro determine if this is lawsuit is a legal breakthrough or a cry for attention.

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