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Observers arrived at the International Court of Justice this morning expecting to hear the first in a series of four days of oral arguments in the Marshall Islands vs. Pakistan nuclear disarmament case. Instead, Judge Ronny Abraham, President of the International Court of Justice, announced that Pakistan had decided not to attend the hearings.
In a letter to the Court, Pakistan wrote, “The Government of Pakistan does not wish to add anything further to its statements and submissions made in its Counter-Memorial and therefore does not feel that its participation in the oral proceedings will add anything to what has already been submitted through its Counter-Memorial.”
The Marshall Islands legal team was still able to present their arguments to the Court regarding jurisdiction and admissibility. Instead of hearing from Pakistan twice and the Marshall Islands once more, the judges will make their decision based solely on today’s oral arguments by the Marshall Islands, along with the Memorial and Counter-Memorial filed by the Marshall Islands and Pakistan, respectively. The Court made those documents public today after the hearing.
The 15 judges listened with great interest as Tony de Brum, co-agent of the Marshall Islands, opened today’s session with a powerful personal story. He said:
Yesterday was a beautiful morning here in The Hague that featured a picture-perfect snowfall. As a tropical State, the Marshall Islands has experienced ‘snow’ on one memorable and devastating occasion, the 1954 Bravo test of a thermonuclear bomb that was one-thousand times the strength of the Hiroshima bomb. When that explosion occurred, there were many people, including children, who were a far distance from the bomb, on our atolls which, according to leading scientists and assurances, were predicted to be entirely safe. In reality, within 5 hours of the explosion, it began to rain radioactive fallout at Rongelap. Within hours, the atoll was covered with a fine, white, powdered-like substance. No one knew it was radioactive fallout. The children thought it was snow. And the children played in the snow. And they ate it. So one can understand that snow, while beautiful, has a tragic and dark history in the Marshall Islands.
After hearing a strong case for jurisdiction and admissibility from the Marshall Islands legal team, the Court brought the hearings in this phase of RMI vs. Pakistan to a close. The judges will now deliberate in private before delivering their judgement at a public sitting at a date to be announced. Today’s ICJ press release has a more detailed explanation of the deliberation process.
Tomorrow morning, the United Kingdom will present opening arguments in the RMI vs. United Kingdom nuclear disarmament case. The hearings will be livestreamed on the ICJ website starting at 10:00 am CET.
Rick Wayman is Director of Programs at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, a consultant to the Republic of the Marshall Islands. He is tweeting about the ICJ hearings at @rickwayman.