Day Six at the ICJ: Contempt of Court

15.03.2016 - The Hague, The Netherlands - Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Day Six at the ICJ: Contempt of Court
The International Court of Justice (ICJ, principal judicial organ of the UN), holds hearings from 7-16 March 2016 in three distinct cases filed by the Republic of the Marshall Islands against India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom, with regard to Obligations concerning Negotiations relating to Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race and to Nuclear Disarmament. (Image by International Court of Justice)

This morning at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) presented final oral arguments in its nuclear disarmament case against India during this phase. Phon van den Biesen, co-agent of the Marshall Islands, opened the session with a strong condemnation of India’s active participation in the nuclear arms race.

As we reported last Thursday, India conducted a test of its new K-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile on Monday 7 March, the same day that hearings on the nuclear disarmament case opened at the ICJ. Mr. van den Biesen was not pleased, particularly about the timing of the nuclear missile test. He said, “One is tempted to call this ‘contempt of Court’ simply because naming it an ‘unfortunate coincidence’ would be grossly understating the meaning of this event.”

While India, in its oral pleadings before the ICJ, has emphasized its votes in favor of nuclear disarmament at the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. van den Biesen highlighted how India’s behavior trumps their hollow words. “In legal terms,” he said, “this is evidence of India’s not acting in good faith concerning the obligation that is central to the current proceedings.”

Luigi Condorelli, counsel to the Marshall Islands and professor of international law at the University of Florence, added to the Marshall Islands’ claims on this issue, stating, “The discrepancy between what India says and what it does is significant.”

Early this morning, unbeknownst to the Marshall Islands legal team at the time of today’s ICJ hearing, India test-fired yet another nuclear-capable missile – this time, the Agni I ballistic missile.

Tony de Brum, co-agent of the Marshall Islands and former RMI foreign minister, closed today’s oral arguments against India. Reminding the Court of the real purpose of the case, he said, “The RMI’s horrific suffering motivates it to bring these proceedings against the nuclear giant that India has become, because the RMI knows first-hand the devastation that India’s nuclear arsenal can cause. And it is a nuclear arsenal that India is proudly and rapidly enhancing and diversifying. Such conduct is the opposite of satisfying a legal obligation to negotiate in good faith nuclear disarmament.”

India will present its final oral argument in the case on Wednesday at 10:00 am CET. After India’s pleadings on Wednesday, the judges will deliberate on the questions of jurisdiction and admissibility of the case and will rule at a date as yet unannounced.

This afternoon, the United Kingdom presented its final oral arguments in the RMI vs. UK case. A summary of the UK’s arguments will appear in Pressenza tomorrow, as there are no hearings at the ICJ on Tuesday.

Rick Wayman is Director of Programs at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, a consultant to the Republic of the Marshall Islands. He is tweeting about the ICJ hearings at @rickwayman.

Categories: Asia, Oceania, Peace and Disarmament
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