Pacific Media Watch

9 July 2015

REGION: Rainbow Warrior author calls for justice for Pacific nuclear victims

Evening Report's Selwyn Manning interviews David Robie about Rongelap, nuclear testing, geopolitics and the Rainbow Warrior legacy. Video: ER on PMC

AUCKLAND (AUT University/Pacific Media Watch): Auckland University of Technology professor David Robie has called for increased political and legal pressure on nuclear powers for "real justice" in the Pacific on the eve of 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, is being launched at The Cloud on Queen’s Wharf in Auckland tomorrow.

The book is being published in tandem with an Eyes of Fire microsite "public good" 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, Dr Robie, now director of  AUT's Pacific Media Centre, had left the ship after spending 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 said tonight regional pressure had “relaxed” since the end of French nuclear tests at Moruroa Atoll in 1996.

He called 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.  

“Pacific nations should renew pressure on the nuclear powers for real justice in the region after up to seven decades of buck-passing and neglect for their shameful testing programmes.

“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,” said Dr Robie.

Marshall Islands set way forward
In his book, Dr Robie described 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,” said 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 had 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 is discouraging, the Marshall Islands legal advisers planned an appeal and their International Court case may gain more traction,” said Dr Robie.

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 10 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,” said 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 added that the government of Fiji had 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.

Evening Report interview with David Robie

The new 30th anniversary edition of Eyes of Fire (Little Island Press).

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