Pacific atoll given nuclear award
Residents of Marshall Islands given one billion dollar compensation for US tests.
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2007 13:25 GMT
The US conducted dozens of nuclear tests in the Pacific in the 1940s and 50s [AP]
Residents of a Marshall Islands atoll that was exposed to fallout from US nuclear tests in the Pacific have been awarded over one billion dollars of compensation.
The Marshall Islands-based Nuclear Claims Tribunal which awarded the money does not have the funds to pay however, and has said that compensation provided by the US was "inadequate."
Tuesday's ruling came over 15 years after the claim was filed by Rongelap, a coral atoll engulfed in nuclear fallout from the 1954 test at Bikini atoll.
The Bravo nuclear test was 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
Former colony
The tribunal was set up in 1988 under an agreement with the US when the Marshall Islands gained independence from its former colonial master.
Since 1991 it has paid personal injury claims of Marshall Islanders affected by 67 US atmospheric nuclear tests conducted in there between 1946 and 1958.
But the tribunal halted payments in 2006 due a lack of funds.
A Tribunal official said the compensation trust fund provided by the US has dropped from its original 1986 amount of 150 million dollars to just one million dollars, which is expected to run out by next year.
Legal action
James Matayoshi, the mayor of Rongelap, said the islanders planned to begin a legal action against the US in the US Court of Claims to seek enforcement of the tribunal's 1.03 billion dollar award.
The award is the largest of the four "class action" awards made by the tribunal, none of which have been paid because of the lack of funds.
Bikini and Enewetak islanders began a legal action last year against the US government in the Court of Claims to get enforcement of their tribunal awards.
A hearing is expected to take place on April 23 in Washington.
The tribunal has already issued awards totaling over one billion dollars for claims filed by Enewetak and Bikini atolls, which were the sites of the 67 nuclear tests, and for Utrik, another atoll that was hit by fallout from the Bravo test.
'Guinea pigs'
Rongelap islanders were evacuated from their island home for three years after the Bravo test but were exposed to more radiation when repatriated to their island by the US in 1957, the tribunal said.
"Although the people were assured that it was safe to return to Rongelap in 1957, it was evident that the US knew Rongelap was still contaminated at that time," tribunal judges James Plasman and Gregory Danz, both Americans, said in their ruling.
The judges said that the people "came to feel like guinea pigs, used for experimentation by the US."
Rongelap Islanders left from the atoll in 1985, fearing continued radiation exposure.
The islanders "suffered emotional distress and a degraded quality of life as a consequence of the contamination of their property," the ruling said.
The award covers loss of property value from radiation contamination, the costs of a clean-up to allow future resettlement, and hardship and suffering.
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.