Marshall Islands Suit to Enforce Nuclear Disarmament Fails in Federal Court

By NEAL CONAN • AUG 2, 2017

Three years ago, the Republic of the Marshall Islands began a quixotic court case to force the World’s Nuclear Weapons states to disarm. The suit was rejected by the International Court of Justice in the Hague last October. And on Monday, the Marshall Island’s case was dismissed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Essentially, the Marshalls argued that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is a contract non-nuclear weapon states agree not to acquire nuclear weapons. States with nuclear arsenals agree to begin good faith negotiations and disarm as soon as practicable. Obviously, that hasn’t happened.

The U.S., Russia, China, Israel, France and North Korea ignored the suit at the Hague because they don’t recognize the International Court Of Justice. Proceedings did get underway against India, Pakistan and Britain.

In a divided decision, the 16 judge panel ruled that it lacked jurisdiction.

But the Marshall Islands also pursued its case in U.S. Federal Court. In 2015, a federal district judge dismissed the suit, and now, on appeal, so has a three judge panel from the Ninth Circuit.

Circuit Judge Margaret McKeown wrote: “The suit is doomed, because diplomatic negotiations …fall quintessentially within the realm of the Executive, not the Judiciary.”

Therefore, any attempt to enforce the suit would violate the separation of powers.

Laurie Ashton, The Marshall Island’s Attorney, said the decision was very disappointing and undercuts the validity of the non-proliferation treaty at a critical time.


  • Who is the lawyer that lead the RMI down on this delusional path? Did the RMI incur legal fees for this? Or was it done by those activist, burned-out hippy type, marijuana smoking lawyers? This lawyer belongs in the same mental ward as Pawnstar.

  • The effort was spearheaded by former Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Tony De Brum, now the Honorary Consul representing Russia in the RMI.

    I understand that RMI government and private funds paid for the expenses.
  • Tony must go. He is part of the problem not part of the solution. A failed statesman like obama.
  • LOL.. why boring, I wanna read more from all the expert here. very interesting subject..indeed!!

  • Just to note that Mr. deBrum passed away several weeks ago after his long life in the RMI as well as in the international political arenas. His families and his friends and professional colleagues have extended their condolences; and wish his well on his new journey.
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