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Together with your people, you have received the Right Livelihood Honorary Award for your courage and commitment to nuclear disarmament. When you were nine years old, you witnessed the ‘Bravo shot’ at Bikini Atoll, the largest-ever US nuclear test that produced an explosion 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. How has this terrible experience influenced your life?
It is the equivalent of a trauma that cannot be erased from your brain, from your heart, from your mind. It continues to haunt me to this day. It drives me; it gives me reason to continue my struggle to bring justice to the people of the Marshall Islands.
The Republic of the Marshall Islands has filed lawsuits against all nine nuclear weapons states – China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, UK and USA – in the International Court of Justice in 2014, for failing to honor their disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and customary international law. What is the objective of this brave initiative?
The Marshall Islands have filed law suits against the nuclear powers in order to compel them to live up to their promise of disarmament. We started to pursue this first because of our experience with the nuclear testing program and therefore we had to take a stand for humanity. We may be a small country; we may be unable to stand up to these very powerful countries of the world, but when it comes to justice, size does not matter.
How is the situation now regarding the lawsuits?
The law suits proceed and will be heard in March, and I hope to be there when this happens.
Do you see a possibility to link your initiative with the “Humanitarian Pledge” taken by Austria and signed by 121 nations, with the aim of banning nuclear weapons?
Yes, there is a definite possibility of linking our initiative to that. I have not examined it that closely, although colleagues who attended that meeting have recommended that we actually join it formally sometime in the near future.
What can be done in your opinion to make more people aware of the terrible threat of nuclear weapons?
To continue to do what we do now, to publicly appreciate the recognition that we have received from the Right Livelihood Award and other organizations, for example the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. To help us along the course to hold governments to account where the governments that we are suing are not helping in any way.