International New York Times - Monday, Decrember 29, 2014
Marshall Islands pushes for talks on prohibiting world's atomic weapons
by MARLISE SIMONS
Tony de Brum was 9 years old in 1954 when he saw the sky light up and heard the terrifying rumble of "Castle Bravo". It was the most powerful of 67 nuclear tests detonated by the United States in the Marshall Islands, the remote Pacific atolls he calls home.
Six decades later, with Mr. de Brum now his country's foreign minister, the memory of those thundering skies has driven him to a near-Quixotic venture: His tiny country is hauling the world's eight declared nuclear powers and Israel before the International Court of Jistice. He wants the court to order the start of long-promised talks for a convention to ban atomic arsenals, much like the treaties that had already prohibit chemical, biological and other weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. de Brum says the initiative is not about seeking redress for the enduring contamination and the waves of illness and birth defetcs attributed to radiation.
Rather, by turning to the world's highest tribunal, a civil court that adresses disputes between nations, he wants to use his own land's painful history to rekindle global concern about the nuclear arm race.
The legal action is expected to run into plenty of legal and political obstcles. Even if the court decides in favor of the Marshall Islands, it has no way to enforce the decision. Prospects of any nuclear power heeding such a ruling anytime soon, experts say, are, obviously, exceeding slim. But some say the action will shine a light on a serious but neglected issue.
"This case will help clarify where we stand in arms control law and perhaps sharpen the obligation to disarm" said Nico Schrijver, who heads the law school at Leiden University in the Netherlands and is not involved in the case. "It has merit in a time of growing international tension. But I see host of legal hurdles ahead".
In its first written arguments, presented to the court this month, the Marshall Islands contended that the nuclear power had violated their legal obligation to disarm. Specifically, the argument said, by joining the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, five countries - the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China - undertook to end the arm race "at an early date" and to negotiate a treaty on "complete disarmament". Trhee other nuclear nations that did not agree to the treaty - India, Israel, and Pakistan - and a fourth that withdrew from it - North Korea - are required to desarm under customary international law, the Marshall Islands' case claims. The existence of Israeli nuclear weapons is universally assumed, but Israel has not acknowledged havin them.
"All the nuclear weapons states are modernizing their arsenals instead of negotiating, and we want the court to rule on this", said Phon van den Biesen, the leader of the islands' legal team.
The civil suit comes as nuclear weapons are being linked to other pressing international issues, such as the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity and the effort to combat climate change.
Meeting in Vienna this month, humanitarian law experts from 160 nations reiterated that the threat from nuclear arms or other weapons of mass destruction was incompatible with human rights principles. Scientists have stepped up warnings that using even a small percentage of the world's nuclear arsenal would radically change the atmosphere and could cause drops in temperatures and large-scale crop failures.
More than a dozen international law experts have donated time to assist the tiny Marshall Islands, a string of atolls with 70,000 inhabitants. Rick Wayman, the director of programs at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, in California, said a coalition of 55 international peace and other activist groups were backing the initiative.
One of the key questions that the court's 15-judge bench is likely to consider is whether modernizing existing arsenals amounts to a new arms race forbidden under existing agreements. The United States and Russia, which control most of the world's nuclear weapons, have cut old stockpiles and agreed, to further reductions under a 2010 bilateral accord. But both countries, along with China, are now engaged in major upgrading of their missile systems. Pakistan and India have been in an arms race for more than 15 years.
The court is also being asked to establish a new disarmament calendar. The Marshall Islands' suit asks that the nuclear powers begin negotiations on a disarmament treaty one year after the court's ruling.
One big question is whether the judges would go beyond an opinion they issued in 1996. Asked to advise the United Nations General Assembly, the judges said unanimously that the obligation existed "to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion" negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament. Experts say the bench may be more divided this time.
It is far from clear how the judges will vote. Although the bench is meant to be independent, six of the 15 judges come from nuclear powers the five original nations plus India.
Heikelina Verrijn Stuart, a co-author of "The Building of Peace," a comprehensive history of the International Court of Justice, said that politics have usually trumped international law and that in the majority of the court's cases, judges have ruled in favor of their country of origin.
"Most states simply do not accept a higher legal authority," she -said. "However, there is no reason to suggest that the I.C.J. judges are in any way, in- strumental to the politics of their country of origin."
Questa e-mail è stata controllata per individuare virus con Avast antivirus.