Analysis Of The International Court Of Justice Decisions Regarding The Marshall Islands' Nuclear Arms Race Case

Law, War
1953 (4 pages)
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Summarized Facts

In April 2014, legal proceedings were initiated against nine states, India, Pakistan, the U.K., the U.S., France, Russia, China, Israel and North Korea by the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) for their alleged disrespect of duties as for the discontinuance of the atomic weapons race and atomic demobilization. Three of the nine states had submitted to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice – Pakistan, India and the U.K.).

The Court perceived that The Republic of the Marshall Islands, had been the land upon which various atomic weapons were tested between 1946 and 1958, when the U.S. controlled the archipelago as per the trusteeship arrangement of the United Nations. The Court also saw that the applicant, by virtue of suffering the misfortune to be the site for broad atomic testing programs, has unique motivations behind worrying about atomic demilitarization’ (para. 44).

Petitioner’s Contentions

RMI attested that the U.K.’s actions were against obligations in Art. VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which communicates that Parties have an obligation on good faith to act accordingly to secure the end of the atomic weapons race as soon as possible and for atomic demobilization.

The RMI fought that India and Pakistan, despite the fact that anyway not included with the NPT, were bound by tantamount responsibilities as an issue of customary international law. The standard duties rely upon powerful support of states in the NPT and the long history of United Nations objectives on atomic demilitarization, and reflect too the general inconsistency of usage of atomic weapons with worldwide law.

The RMI battled that the respondents acted in breach of the duty of compliance in accordance with some basic good faith for the ‘discontinuance of the atomic weapons challenge at an early date’ and atomic demilitarization due to :

  • refusing to start multilateral discussions in light of that or possibly by completing game plans disregarding the objective of atomic demilitarization;
  • engaging in modernization of atomic forces and some of the time (Pakistan, India) by quantitative growth as well;
  • planning for upkeep of atomic forces for a significant long time into what’s to come;

Preventing most of non-atomic weapon states from fulfilling their piece of these responsibilities.

Relief Claimed

The relief claimed was an unequivocal judgment that responsibilities relating to atomic demobilization have been breached and a request to start, inside one year of the judgment, all methods vital to go along to those duties, including the interest, if essential, of exchanges in compliance with good faith for the decision of a tradition on atomic demilitarization in the entirety of its viewpoints under exacting and compelling international scrutiny.

ICJ and Nuclear Disarmament in the Past

The NPT isn’t new for the ICJ. It passed a warning assessment on the 1996 Nuclear Weapons case and commented on the main importance of Art VI, interpreting it, as containing a ‘pact to achieve a definite result – atomic demobilization in the total in all examples.’ In the present case, the ICJ got a rare chance to effectuate its previous announcement and return back to its stance for atomic weapons in light of advancements in universal law. This was in any case, the first run through the International Court of Justice (ICJ) had been drawn closer to convey issues relating to atomic weapons since its 1996 cautioning appraisal, in which it reliably induced that there exists a promise to look for as per some essential great confidence and convey to an end dealings inciting atomic demobilization in the aggregate of its points of view under serious worldwide control.

Preliminary Arguments Regarding Existence of Dispute

Respondents’ Contentions

Respondents invoked four important points in their initial grievances to the maintainability of the case: i) non-presence of a legal question; ii) non-presence of ‘necessary parties’ in lawful procedures; iii) opposition to submitting to the Court’s jurisdiction according to their own understanding of international law; and iv) the absence of practical implications or effect of a judgment. Pakistan similarly made a conflict locus standii of RMI to bring the case under the watchful eye of the Court.

ICJ Jurisprudence on the Existence of a Dispute

The ICJ has settled law on the criteria for deciding whether a legal dispute arises or not. Judge Owada refers to nineteen Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ) and ICJ in his individual opinion, as being situations where this topic has been elucidated upon. Mavrommatis’ definition of a debate is there being ‘a distinction on a point of law or truth a conflict of genuine viewpoints or of interests’. Further as cleared up by the ICJ in the 1962 South West Africa cases, the Party’s case must be ‘repudiated by the other’. Ultimately, as gathered from the ICJ’s Interpretation of the 1950 Bulgarian and Hungary Peace Treaties, it is ‘an issue for target affirmation’. Even more starting late, the ICJ has in like manner cleared up that the nearness of a discussion includes substantial compliance with The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 2011 and not formal compliance thereof.

The ICJ went well beyond in the present case by showing a conceptual standard: the respondent’s nature with the nearness of a debate. This is a considerable deviation from past case law, which focused solely on target criteria.


While choosing whether there was a debate among RMI and the respondents in the present case, the ICJ extended its very own domain of the significance of inquiry and went well beyond in the present case by showing a subjective criteria for the inquiry: the respondent’s familiarity with whether there arose a dispute. This is an important deviation from past case law, which focused solely on target criteria.

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In the majority judge’s view, the respondent states couldn’t know that RMI were making a case on their possible breach of commitments towards atomic demobilization. Articulations from delegates of the Marshall Islands in multilateral meetings, for example saying that ‘States having atomic weapons stores are neglecting in satisfying lawful commitments,’ were not deemed adequate. Nor was the way that the gatherings criticized the efforts of the United Kingdom’s improvement and augmentation of its atomic weapons framework sufficient. Truth be told, as per to the United Kingdom, the majority judges slighted one of the affirmations of RMI as it was made in a conference on the helpful effect of atomic weapons during which no British representation was present. It appears to be difficult to trust that in a globalized world, with ubiquitous access to data, the U.K. would not wind up mindful of this announcement.

Consequently, the majority judges contend that statements referred to by RMI. To help its case are of ‘general substance’, and not coordinated to the particular respondents. Thus, they reason that none of the announcements articulate a supposed breach by any one of the respondents in regards to any of the commitment given in Article VI of NPT’. Hence, the case was dismissed.


Lack of objectivity of the court and incorrect exercise of jurisdiction

Vice-President Yusuf of the ICJ, states that the purpose of the Court is to restrict itself to evidence presented before it. The Court should not venture into a consideration of consciousness, perception or other such mental processes of the State actors to determine whether they had an “awareness” of the dispute or not. He adds that this presents a new conundrum as the applicant might now present another case because now the respondent is definitely cognizant of there being a dispute.

History of Icj’s reluctance to give a conclusive judgment on the subject of nuclear weapons

Another one of the critiques is that the decisions of the Court fail to give relevant legitimization behind pulling back from ICJ jurisprudence on their being an occurrence of a dispute. Some may consider whether the instant case deals with had anything to do with this.

In the 1974 Nuclear Test cases, the Court out of nowhere, gave limiting effect to one-sided disclosures made in official public announcements. Thus, the ICJ said that there we unable to conclusively decide if France’s atomic tests in the South Pacific Ocean were in conjunction to International law following France’s open declarations communicating its desire to avoid future tests.

About two decades afterward, the World Court abstained from giving any conclusive opinion in case of a request submitted to it by the UN General Assembly. In the Advisory Opinion on the 1996 nuclear weapon’s case, the ICJ validated that it couldn’t choose legitimately whether the peril or usage of atomic weapons would be in compliance with international law an over the top situation of self-conservation. This questionable declaration is the main example of non-liquet till today (i.e., the ICJ gathered that no significant legal precedent or legislation was present regarding this matter).

Heartbreakingly, this is another case in which a request was yet again made to the ICJ to address the request from atomic demilitarization yet the Court once more discovered new concentrated conflicts to go without managing the subject.

National bias of the judges

In his article, ‘Capitulation in The Hague: The Marshall Islands Cases’, Nico Krisch brings to light that that out of eight, six judges who expelled the body of evidence against the United Kingdom were nationals of nuclear power states, while two of them were born in nations that benefited from being an atomic weapons regime. There is strong talk in the educational social affairs that the dismissal of the cases came about not from the capacity of the greater part judges to reinterpret what a legitimate inquiry is, however rather from their points of view on the subject of atomic demobilization itself.

It should be remembered that in Committee of the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ) in 1927, while surveying its laws, made a considerable dispute on the earth shattering effect of nationality. Honestly, discourses regarding influence of nationality on a judge’s pre-supposition feature in the travaux preparatoires in the PCIJ statute. It was also commented that the requirement of having a national judge of each party on the bench is also frivolous.

The votes for respondent U.K. were extraordinarily shut down at 7:7 with the president tossing the sudden death round for the U.K. In this way, it is possible that to some degree that had the bench been comprised differently could have incited diverse results, as the votes were similarly divided both in the case of the Advisory Opinion on 1996 Nuclear Weapons case and the current RMI case.


It is sensible that courts will be watchful about frivolous disputes. In any case, they ought to balance this stress against the worldwide demand for offering access to peaceful resolution of legal differences between state actors. This is becoming considerably difficult in case of ICJ as it is very difficult to summon its jurisdiction. Post this case, the Court has shifted from a ‘tradition of versatility’, as said by Judge Crawford through his eyes, to a ‘formalistic system’, as demonstrated by Judge Cançado Trindade, in the dissenting opinion, adding another obstacle to getting to global mediation.

Given the rehashed fizzled tries to get the ICJ on this essential and basic issue, one may ponder whether universal suit is an achievable procedure for atomic demobilization. The Marshall Islands judgment gives understanding about the larger part judges’ points of view on this topic. When following the vital establishment and job of the United Nations in demobilization, the ICJ judgment distinguishes three organs with ‘a vocation in universal demilitarization tries’: UNSC, UNGA, and the UN Military Staff Committee. Astoundingly absent from this rundown is simply the World Court itself!

Despite the way that the past failures of the ICJ to give a conclusive judgement on atomic abstinence or nuclear demobilization, resort to global mediation could remain an appropriate solution in the future. Prosecution should not be seen as the basic street to confirm advance for atomic demobilization. However in matters such as these, multilateral negotiations between countries should assume prime importance.

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