Marshall Islands file landmark suits against the nuclear weapons states

The nuclear weapons states (photo courtesy of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament)

On April 24, 2014, the Republic of the Marshall Islands filed landmark cases in the International Court of Justice and U.S. Federal District Court charging that the nine nuclear-armed nations have failed to comply with their obligations, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and under customary international law, to pursue negotiations for the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons. 

The suit names the five nuclear weapons states that are signatories to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT): the USA, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom; as well as India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea, which also possess nuclear weapons but have not signed the NPT.  The Marshall Islands leaders estimate that these nine nations will spend a combined $1 trillion on their arsenals over the next decade and that countries engaging in modernizing their nuclear weapons are committing a “flagrant denial of human justice.” The suit is intended to initiate actions that will reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world.

The Marshall Islands, a small chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean, was the site of 67 US nuclear weapons tests conducted between 1946 and 1958, including the most powerful test in US history, Castle Bravo, a 15 megaton device detonated at Bikini Atoll which alone was approximately 1,000 times more powerful than each of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  As a result of the nuclear weapons fallout, the Marshall Islands suffered devastating health and human rights consequences and still continues to be adversely affected by the radiation and near-irreversible environmental contamination.

Legal work on these cases was done by Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy (LCNP) and their international arm, the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA), supported by funding from The Simons Foundation.  The Simons Foundation’s Fellow and Executive Director of LCNP, John Burroughs, is a member of the legal team and Peter Weiss, Co-president of IALANA, is consultant to the International Team.  Both made major contributions to the preparation of the applications, particularly those of India and Pakistan.

For more information on the suits and to access the court documents, please visit