Legal Sparring Continues in Nuclear Zero Lawsuit

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Legal Sparring Continues in Nuclear Zero Lawsuit


Nuclear Zero LawsuitsOn September 8, the U.S. continued to argue its position to dismiss the Nuclear Zero Lawsuit filed on April 24 by the Republic of the Marshall Islands in U.S. Federal District Court.

This reply comes in response to the Marshall Islands Opposition filed one month ago in which the RMI contends, among other points that:

  • While the Non-Proliferation Treaty is in effect and the U.S. is a party to it, there is no choice but for the U.S. to comply with it.
  • The courts determine compliance with the law, not the Executive.
  • The U.S. Constitution says “ALL” treaties are the supreme law of this nation. Not just some treaties, or ones the current President prefers at any particular time.
  • The NPT is a treaty, and under the plain language of our Constitution, the federal courts are charged with interpreting it, and resolving disputes involving it, such as this dispute.

Essentially the U.S, in its reply to the RMI’s Opposition, continues to seek a dismissal of the case on jurisdictional grounds to avoid having the case heard on its merits. David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, commented, “This reply from the U.S. government is more of the same. Clearly they do not want to risk having the case heard on its merits. Yet, doing so would benefit every citizen of the U.S. and the world. Nuclear weapons threaten us all.”

Importantly, the U.S. reply does not dispute that Article VI of the NPT comprises an international legal obligation to begin negotiations for nuclear disarmament. Rather, it argues that the U.S. courts are not the right place to enforce this obligation. Taking this argument to its logical conclusion, one would come away with the notion that the Executive Branch of the U.S. government should be allowed to police itself when it comes to deciding if they are acting lawfully and in good faith.

Further, the reply argues “… that an attempt to resolve the matter would express a lack of respect due to the political branches and risk conflicting and potentially embarrassing pronouncements by various branches…” Whether or not the claims made against the U.S. might prove an embarrassment to the Executive Branch has no place in this argument and should be of zero legal consequence in U.S. Federal court.

The simple fact remains that the Executive Branch is not participating in any negotiations on ending the nuclear arms race or nuclear disarmament. At the same time, it continues to spend billions of dollars modernizing its nuclear arsenal. It is not, of its own volition, fulfilling its Article VI obligations and requires intervention of the court.

Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Tony de Brum said, “I remain hopeful that the U.S. Federal Court will recognize that the U.S. must meet their legal and moral obligations if we are to leave the world a safer place for all of humanity.”

The U.S. reply is available online here.

The court has scheduled a hearing on the U.S. Motion to Dismiss in October, 2014. Visit  nuclearzero.org for the latest updates.