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Marshalls’ court battle begins

Tuesday 8 March 2016 | Published in Regional

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THE HAGUE – An international court in The Netherlands has this begun hearings in a nuclear disarmament battle brought by the Marshall Islands.

The Marshall Islands filed lawsuits in the International Court of Justice nearly two years ago against nine states including declared nuclear powers China, France, Russia and the United States as well as Israel and North Korea.

Only Britain, India and Pakistan have made a commitment to respond to the suits and are appearing before the court.

The Marshall Islands has accused the nine countries of flagrant violation of international law for failing to pursue the negotiations required by the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In the hearings the court will hear the preliminary objections raised by the UK, India and Pakistan.

The court will determine whether any legal obstacles prevent the cases from going forward for consideration on their merits.

The Marshall islands legal team said the British case differed from the cases of India and Pakistan in that Britain was a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and bound by its Article VI.

That clause requires states to pursue negotiations “in good faith” to end the nuclear arms race and achieve total nuclear disarmament.

The Marshall Islands contends that India and Pakistan are bound by similar obligations under customary international law.

“From a legal perspective, the issues presented by these cases are ordinary ones, but a positive outcome will, spectacularly, change the world, “ said Phon van den Biesen, who is leading the team.

“We are, basically, asking the Court to tell the respondent states to live up to their obligations under international law and to conduct negotiations leading to the required result – nuclear disarmament in all its aspects.”

Many activists and academics believe getting the three larger nations into court is a victory in itself for the Marshall Islands which is home to just 50,000 people.

It was the site of 67 nuclear tests by 1958 and health impacts from the tests linger to this day.

“The success will be in putting the issue back on the agenda. This is as much as the Marshall Islands can hope for,” said Dapo Akande, professor of international law at Oxford University.

“When the Marshall Islands goes to the ICJ, it’s equal with Britain and with India. Big countries get dragged into disputes to which they otherwise would not have needed to pay attention,” he said. - RNZI

Nauru’s visa restrictions ‘crazy’

YAREN – A former president of Nauru says his country’s recent changes to visitor visas for Australia and New Zealand are “crazy”.

Under the new immigration rules, Australians and New Zealanders wanting to visit the Pacific nation will need a sponsorship letter from a Nauruan citizen.

If visitors breach the visa restrictions, the sponsor faces a fine of up to $5000 as well as a maximum sentence of one year in jail.

Nauru’s former president Sprent Dabwido said most Nauruans would be “intimidated” by the measure.

“It’s crazy, why these two nations?” he said.

“What has Australia and New Zealand done to deserve this kind of restriction on their citizens if they want to come to Nauru?

“Probably it’s a warning to those not to even think about sponsoring people from Australia and New Zealand.

“It’s another wall being built on top of the walls they’ve already built.”

Visitor visas from Australia and New Zealand were cancelled last month following the sudden rule change.

Nauru’s government, which has criticised Australian media for coverage of immigration issues, said the move was in response to an ABC journalist attempting to enter the country as a visitor, a claim the ABC denies.

Several Australian and international media organisations have unsuccessfully sought approval to visit Nauru to report on the country’s agreement with Australia to take asylum seekers who arrive by boat.

The cost of journalist visas in Nauru was raised to $8000 two years ago.

Dabwido said the latest measures were “embarrassing and wrong”.

“They’ve done it to target advocates and probably the media of Australia and New Zealand, that’s probably the hidden agenda behind what they are doing,” he said. - ABC