Call for a region-wide push for real nuclear justice in Pacific needed, says Dr David Robie
A call for increased political and legal pressure on nuclear powers for ‘real justice’ is needed, says Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Professor, Dr David Robie, at the launch of a special edition book about the Rainbow Warrior bombing.
Dr Robie’s book, a fresh edition of Eyes of Fire: The Last Voyage of the Rainbow Warrior, was launched at The Cloud on Queen’s Wharf on Friday 10 July.
The book was published in tandem with an Eyes of Fire microsite public resource about the Rainbow Warrior by Little Island Press in partnership with AUT Bachelor of Communication Studies students, the AUT Pacific Media Centre, and Greenpeace.
This year marks 30 years since the Rainbow Warrior bombing in New Zealand. The original Greenpeace vessel, used for campaigning against nuclear testing, was bombed twice in a matter of minutes and sunk by two French secret agents in the port of Auckland on 10 July 1985.
Just three days prior to the bombing, AUT Professor and Director of the Pacific Media Centre, David Robie spent 10 weeks on board the vessel as an independent journalist, the only New Zealand media person accompanying the anti-nuclear testing campaigners.
Regional pressure needed
Dr Robie says regional pressure had “relaxed” since the end of French nuclear tests at Moruroa Atoll in 1996.
He calls on the Pacific Islands Forum and Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) to follow the lead of the Marshall Islands, which is trying to sue the nuclear powers, and give a region-wide push for nuclear justice in the Pacific.
“Just ending the tests isn’t enough, it’s the unfinished business of the massive clean-up and health burden left by at least 269 nuclear tests in the region, many of them toxic atmospheric tests,” says Dr Robie.
Marshall Islands set the way forward
In his book, Dr Robie describes how the Marshall Islands took the bold step of filing unprecedented lawsuits against the nine global nuclear powers in the International Court of Justice in The Hague and the US Federal Court last year.
“This move may roll out for years, but if all Pacific countries get behind this brave example and opened up other challenges it could raise the legal and political stakes,” says Dr Robie.
The United States conducted 67 tests in 12 years at Bikini and Enewetak atolls in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958.
The Marshall Islands Government argued the nuclear powers were in violation of international law for failing to disarm. However, a US federal judge earlier this year dismissed the case on the grounds that the alleged breach of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT) was speculative.
“While this was discouraging, the Marshall Islands legal advisers planned an appeal and their International Court case may gain more traction,” says Dr Robie.
A history of nuclear testing in the Pacific
France conducted 193 nuclear tests over three decades between 1966 and 1996 at Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls in Polynesia.
While the Morin law in France had opened the door to greater compensation for the nuclear tests in Polynesia and there had been ten successful compensation cases awarded earlier this year, this legislation had been criticised as inadequate.
“Moruroa and Fangataufa have yet to be ‘cleaned up’ and handed back to Tahiti,” says Dr Robie.
“In the case of the nine British nuclear tests in two years at Malden Island, and what was then Christmas Island (now Kiritimati island) in Kiribati, the compensation track record is also poor.”
However, Dr Robie adds that the government of Fiji earlier this year awarded compensation to 70 Fijian veterans who were deployed by the Britain to Kiritimati for the nuclear tests.
“They chose not to wait for Britain to do the right thing.”
Dr Robie was awarded the 1985 New Zealand Media Peace Prize for his reportage of the voyage and the sabotage.
Click here for the Eyes of Fire microsite.