Friday, 24 October 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Marshall Islanders Stand Before UN Council

Friday, 21 September 2012 13:01 By Barbara Rose Johnston, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Mrs. Lemeyo Abon, retired teacher and Marshallese elder, giving testimony on her experiences with nuclear fallout on Rongelap, radiation exposure, and the many consequences in terms of individual, family and community health from the US denial that miscarriages, sterility, and congenital birth defects are the result of these exposures. Remarks given at the NGO panel "Human Rights Impact of Nuclear Testing" organized by Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Reaching Critical Will, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear, 14 September 2012, Palais de Nations, Geneva. (Photo: Rowan Farrell, with permission of Reaching Critical Will/WILPF)Mrs. Lemeyo Abon, retired teacher and Marshallese elder, giving testimony on her experiences with nuclear fallout on Rongelap, radiation exposure, and the many consequences in terms of individual, family and community health from the US denial that miscarriages, sterility, and congenital birth defects are the result of these exposures. (Photo: Rowan Farrell, with permission of Reaching Critical Will/WILPF)September 13, 2012 was a historic day at the United Nations and in the Marshall Islands. The Human Rights Council considered for the first time the environmental and human rights impacts resulting from the radioactive and toxic substances in nuclear fallout. And, Marshall Islands citizens stood for the first time before the United Nations Council to offer survivor testimony on United States nuclear weapons fallout on the environment, health and life.

This moment was generated by the report of Mr. Calin Georgescu, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and waste, on his mission to the Marshall Islands and the United States and his exploration of the human rights consequences of nuclear contamination.

As residents of a United Nations designated trust territory governed by the United States, the Marshallese people endured the loss of traditionally-held land and marine resources without negotiation or compensation; were exposed to fallout contamination compromising the environmental health of individuals, communities, and an entire nation; suffered through the documentation of health hazards in a decades-long medical research program that involved human radiation experiments; and, when negotiating the terms of independence in free association with the United States, were severely hampered by the US refusal to fully disclose the full extent of military activities, including the scientific documentation of the environmental and health impacts of serving as the Pacific Proving Ground for weapons of mass destruction.

UN Special Rapporteur Calin Georgescu, speaking about the urgency of  attending to nuclear contamination and environmental health in the Marshall Islands in the NGO panel "Human Rights Impact of Nuclear Testing" organized by Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Reaching Critical Will, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear, 14 September 2012, Palais de Nations, Geneva. (Photo: Rowan Farrell, with permission of Reaching Critical Will/WILPF)UN Special Rapporteur Calin Georgescu, speaking about the urgency of attending to nuclear contamination and environmental health in the Marshall Islands in the NGO panel "Human Rights Impact of Nuclear Testing" organized by Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Reaching Critical Will, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear, 14 September 2012, Palais de Nations, Geneva. (Photo: Rowan Farrell, with permission of Reaching Critical Will/WILPF)Special Rapporteur Georgescu reported that the environmental health consequences of nuclear testing and remaining obligations were acknowledged in the 2008-2009 President's Cancer Panel which recommended that the US "honor and make payments according to the judgments of the Marshall Islands Tribunal." Observing that US has yet to fund Tribunal judgments beyond the initially level of $150 million, he concluded that the Marshallese lack the means, infrastructure, and technical capacity to find durable solutions to the dislocation to their indigenous ways of life. He called for the immediate development of a national and regional plan for nuclear security and restoration of a sustainable way of life, similar to the initiatives undertaken for the benefit of affected-populations by States that historically carried out and continue to carry-out nuclear testing programmes. Issue-specific recommendations offer a framework by which truth, justice, and reparation might achieved through actions involving the Marshall Islands Government, the United States, the UN and its specialized agencies and institutions, and other members of the international community.

Responding to the Special Rapporteur's report, Marshall Islands Minister of Foreign Affairs Phillip H. Muller called to the Council's attention the fact that two UN resolutions on nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands remain the only instances in which the UN ever explicitly authorized the testing of nuclear weapons. "Adopted in 1954 and 1956 in rejection of our petitions to halt the testing, those resolutions made specific assurances of fairness, justice and respect for human rights, which have never been met. This continued denial of justice to our people is completely unacceptable." The Marshall Islands welcomed the Rapporteur's recommendations and urged the United States and the international community to do likewise.

The United States acknowledged the contributions of constructive dialogue but rejected the validity of a human rights review of nuclear weapon testing, arguing "that nuclear testing is not, fundamentally, an issue of 'management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes.' Particularly when described in terms of 'improper' or 'environmentally sound' management." The US disagreed with a number of assertions of human rights law within the report, and disagreed that there is a continuing obligation by the international community to encourage a "final and just resolution" of the issue. The United States cited the adoption of a Compact of Free Association and expenditures of $600 million to date for various technical problems, including $150 million for nuclear claims, as evidence of their efforts, and assured the United Nations that "Experts and scientists from across the U.S. Government will continue their decades long engagement in the Marshall Islands to address the issues that arose from our nuclear testing."

In the ensuing interactive dialogue between Nations, Institutions, and NGOS, speakers recognized the continued presence of radioactive contaminants in the Marshall Islands and reaffirmed the existence of a special responsibility by the United States towards the people of the Marshall Islands, and the need for continuing and increased levels of bilateral cooperation. They also called for radioactive waste, environmental contamination, and related human rights issues of nuclear militarism to be adequately addressed bilateral and through the United Nations system.

***

Statement of Mrs. Lemeyo Abon, September 13, 2012

Organization: Cultural Survival

Item: Item 3 Interactive Dialogue, Human Rights Council Twenty-first session

RE: (A/HRC/21/48/Add.1) Report of the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, Calin Georgescu. Addendum – Mission to the Marshall Islands (27-30 March 2012) and United States of America (24-27 April 2012)

Title: Health and Resettlement in the Marshall Islands

Speaker: Mrs. Lemeyo ABON

Madame President, Distinguished Delegates:

I want to thank Cultural Survival for sponsoring my participation at this forum. My name is Lemeyo Abon, and I speak today as the President of ERUB. The word erub means "damaged" or "broken," and it is an apt name for an organization of Marshallese nuclear survivors.

On March 1st, 1954, I was 14 years old, living on the island of Eneaetok on Rongelap Atoll. This was the day I first experienced injustice. It was the day that deprived me of peace. The bomb by the code name 'Bravo' was exploded on Bikini Atoll just 180 km upwind from Rongelap. Unlike other nuclear weapons tested over the previous 8 years, there was no warning given to the people on Rongelap and other islands downwind of the blast. I was playing when the poisonous debris from the bomb fell on me. I didn't know what it was but because it looked like snow, I began playing with it. But suddenly it burned my eyes and mouth. Later in the evening I was so sick. All the people on the island were very sick, especially the children. The next day my skin was torn up and covered with sores. I had skin burns so badly I was in pain. My hair started to fall off. After two days of drinking contaminated water, eating contaminated food and breathing the contaminated air, we were evacuated by the U.S.

One would think being rescued by a big military ship abandoning the poisonous atoll would end the injustice, but no, that was just the beginning. Much more inhumane treatment was yet to be bestowed upon us. After evacuation we became subjects of study in a top-secret research program that documented, but did not treat our injuries. The studies continued and expanded when were returned to home islands three years later, with twice-a year visits from scientists who probed, sampled and documented the changes in our bodies in a research effort that continued for decades.

In my community, we did not learn until the 1970s that our homeland was dangerously contaminated with nuclear fallout. Realizing our lives and future were being destroyed, we asked the US government to evacuate us again. They refused, and finally in 1985 we received the help of Greenpeace and we abandoned our home islands, our only possession.

This deeply disturbing history has immense and painful consequences. To this day women in the Marshall Islands give birth to jellyfish babies, or babies born with no bones in their bodies and translucent skin. Sometimes they are born alive and live for a few minutes or hours, and you can see the blood moving through their bodies before they die. We give birth to babies with missing limbs, or their organs and spinal cords on the outside of their bodies. We never experienced these types of births before the U.S. testing program. We have complained about these births for decades and we are always told by the U.S. Government that they are not the result of radiation exposure. Yet, our language, our history, our stories have no record of these births before the testing program. After the testing program we've had to create new words to describe the creatures we give birth to.

And for those that survive, we have few resources to provide a life with dignity. Today in the Marshall Islands there is no oncologist to treat the many cancers that have become too common in our lives. Chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer does not exist in the Marshall Islands so we have to leave the country for treatment. Because the US denies that our radiation exposures have affected the health of children and their children, only a few people are eligible for government-funded medical treatment for their radiogenic cancers, disease, and conditions.

We believe, like other indigenous nations, that it is our sacred duty to sustain the land and to take care of future generations so they can thrive, and given the many challenges of attending to health and welfare in a nation compromised by its service as a nuclear weapons proving ground, we welcome the assistance of the United States and the international community, especially if that assistance helps us to achieve adequate healthcare and a safe and secure environment.

We gave the world knowledge of the many ways that radiation can destroy a human being, yet today we see our cultural ways of life sorely affected by the loss of our beloved homes, and our people plagued by illness caused by radiation. Our experience is that nuclear fallout creates damages that endure and expand. Yet, U.S. assistance programs continue to contract and deny.

An island may be remediated, with radioactive soil, plants, and debris removed, but is it safe? In our culture we rely on the wealth of many islands to get access to the food, medicine, housing, water and other resources. A single coral island in the Marshall Islands cannot support a community, and a partial cleanup of one island is not the same as restoring our homelands.

The nuclear survivors of ERUB and the Marshall Islands applaud the investigation of the Special Rapporteur into the human rights violations connected to the U.S. testing of nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands and we welcome his recommendations that the United States should fully fund the awards made through the RMI Nuclear Claims Tribunal, expand medical assistance programs, assist in building a national healthcare system that can attend to the legacies of nuclear testing, and help us to assess and restore our severely contaminated environment.

We have a saying jej bok non won ke jemake which means 'if not us, who?' We have to act now, we have to let peace prevail, this is our time for the future of our children and grandchildren. I urge this council and the members of the United Nations to take action to not only help us help ourselves, but to make sure that such miseries do not occur ever again.

Thank you.

Statement of Mrs. Abacca Anjain-Madisson, President, Iju in Ean club (Rongelapese Women Club)

September 14, 2012

Human Rights Council 21st Session, Item 3, General Debate

NGO: Cultural Survival. Speaker: Mrs. Abacca Anjain-Madisson, President, Iju in Ean club (Rongelapese Women Club)

RE: (A/HRC/21/48/Add.1) Report of the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, Calin Georgescu. Addendum – Mission to the Marshall Islands (27-30 March 2012) and United States of America (24-27 April 2012)

Mdm. President:

Let me begin by saying that I, and my two Marshallese survivor friends, strongly endorse and appreciate the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur. We join the Marshall Islands and others who spoke this morning in requesting that the General Assembly, the Security Council, and the Human Rights Council work with all parties to ensure that these recommendations move to action.

I am humbled to speak as a delegate from the NGO Cultural Survival as nuclear testing threatens every aspect of our culture. I appear before you today on behalf of the women and children of Rongelap Atoll and the Marshall Islands as a whole.

Out of 67 hydrogen and atomic bomb exploded in the US testing program in the Marshall Islands form 1946-1958, the 'Bravo' shot was the strongest hydrogen bomb exploded on March 1, 1954 on Bikini atoll and clouds carried nuclear fallout that rained down on the food crops, water catchments, houses, and bodies of children and women who were going about their usual activities. Declassified information indicates that if the Rongelapese had not moved in three days, all residents would have died of acute radiation: the US moved the residents after 2.5 days, just shy of lethal doses.

Thirty-one years after the Bravo shot exploded, residents of Rongelap were getting sick especially the women and children from eating of and living on the highly contaminated atoll. Women gave birth to deformed babies, jellyfish and grapes-like babies, stillbirths and monster-like babies not to mention miscarriages that were very common even amongst women not exposed to nuclear fallout, the second and third generations. The longer the women lived on Rongelap the more health complications developed such as breast, thyroid, uterine, and stomach cancers and gave birth to mentally retarded children. Regardless of constant complaints, the US Government was not truthful to the community about our health and safety; instead the Rongelapese were used as guinea pigs for top secret US military research to learn how radiation effects human beings. Out of concern for the sake of their children and grandhildren, the community fled their homeland to a nearby tiny and desolate islet called Mejatto in 1985 where they still live with thanks to the Chiefs and the NGO Greenpeace.

In 2006, the US Government declared Rongelap safe and decided it would force the people to return home within this year or next or lose resettlement funds. The US wants us to return even if the clean up of the soil is not complete according to an MOU signed in 1992. The Resettlement Fund we may lose if we disagree that Rongelap is safe includes funding for remediation and monitoring, food , transportation, educational and medical needs while living on Mejatto. The US mandate is a total breech of the MOU from 1992 because not all 1,557 acres, including the neighboring islets, will be cleaned but only 200 acres on the main island of Rongelap has been remediated to date. The US once again failed in its promises and wants to punish us for not following its directives.

The recent US ultimatum is dividing the Rongelapese community, including our local government, clan leaders, and families. This ultimatum certainly will take away our rights to live free from danger and our indigenous rights to a clean environment. Governments do not own land in our culture; in fact, women do as it's a matrilineal society. Furthermore, once people are on their own land, nothing will stop them from the potentially dangerous practices of visiting and gathering local food and herbal medicine from highly contaminated lands in the north where these culturally essential resources are available, but the radiation levels are highest. Coconut juice, milk and crabs are the main staples but they are highly contaminated and resettled people will consume them regardless of US policies. Women and newborn infants after birth undergo herbal baths that require the drinking of concentrated herbs for at least three months. Older women will pound and touch the contaminated leaves and fetch wood for fire to prepare the herbs. The best foods are always local foods that will be given to mothers in order to produce breast milk. Not to mention, every birthday, funeral, church activity requires people to gather and celebrate the Marshallese way, using many local resources. No laws or anybody will ever be able to prevent the Rongelapese from eating off their land. Therefore, radiation intake must be unlimited or it won't be safe.

Today at this moment hope is alive again, we have confidence the pain and sufferings of our lost loved ones will not be in vain and that this committee will take seriously the Special Rapporteur's report and support our refusal to prematurely return to our contaminated homeland before United States fulfill it's moral responsibilities as promised. We the people of Rongelap, the Women and Children are people, too.

Kommol tata and God Bless us all.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Barbara Rose Johnston

Barbara Rose Johnston is an environmental anthropologist at the Center for Political Ecology in Santa Cruz, California. Her efforts to document the human environmental impact of nuclear weapons testing and the experiences of hosting the cold war nuclear enterprise are published in her edited volume, "Half-lives and Half-truths: Confronting the Radioactive Legacies of the Cold War" (SAR Press, 2007) and the co-authored book, "Consequential Damages of Nuclear War: The Rongelap Report with Holly Barker" (Left Coast Press 2008). Her most recent book is "Life and Death Matters: Human Rights, Environment, and Social Justice" (Left Coast Press 2011).


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Marshall Islanders Stand Before UN Council

Friday, 21 September 2012 13:01 By Barbara Rose Johnston, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Mrs. Lemeyo Abon, retired teacher and Marshallese elder, giving testimony on her experiences with nuclear fallout on Rongelap, radiation exposure, and the many consequences in terms of individual, family and community health from the US denial that miscarriages, sterility, and congenital birth defects are the result of these exposures. Remarks given at the NGO panel "Human Rights Impact of Nuclear Testing" organized by Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Reaching Critical Will, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear, 14 September 2012, Palais de Nations, Geneva. (Photo: Rowan Farrell, with permission of Reaching Critical Will/WILPF)Mrs. Lemeyo Abon, retired teacher and Marshallese elder, giving testimony on her experiences with nuclear fallout on Rongelap, radiation exposure, and the many consequences in terms of individual, family and community health from the US denial that miscarriages, sterility, and congenital birth defects are the result of these exposures. (Photo: Rowan Farrell, with permission of Reaching Critical Will/WILPF)September 13, 2012 was a historic day at the United Nations and in the Marshall Islands. The Human Rights Council considered for the first time the environmental and human rights impacts resulting from the radioactive and toxic substances in nuclear fallout. And, Marshall Islands citizens stood for the first time before the United Nations Council to offer survivor testimony on United States nuclear weapons fallout on the environment, health and life.

This moment was generated by the report of Mr. Calin Georgescu, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and waste, on his mission to the Marshall Islands and the United States and his exploration of the human rights consequences of nuclear contamination.

As residents of a United Nations designated trust territory governed by the United States, the Marshallese people endured the loss of traditionally-held land and marine resources without negotiation or compensation; were exposed to fallout contamination compromising the environmental health of individuals, communities, and an entire nation; suffered through the documentation of health hazards in a decades-long medical research program that involved human radiation experiments; and, when negotiating the terms of independence in free association with the United States, were severely hampered by the US refusal to fully disclose the full extent of military activities, including the scientific documentation of the environmental and health impacts of serving as the Pacific Proving Ground for weapons of mass destruction.

UN Special Rapporteur Calin Georgescu, speaking about the urgency of  attending to nuclear contamination and environmental health in the Marshall Islands in the NGO panel "Human Rights Impact of Nuclear Testing" organized by Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Reaching Critical Will, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear, 14 September 2012, Palais de Nations, Geneva. (Photo: Rowan Farrell, with permission of Reaching Critical Will/WILPF)UN Special Rapporteur Calin Georgescu, speaking about the urgency of attending to nuclear contamination and environmental health in the Marshall Islands in the NGO panel "Human Rights Impact of Nuclear Testing" organized by Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Reaching Critical Will, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear, 14 September 2012, Palais de Nations, Geneva. (Photo: Rowan Farrell, with permission of Reaching Critical Will/WILPF)Special Rapporteur Georgescu reported that the environmental health consequences of nuclear testing and remaining obligations were acknowledged in the 2008-2009 President's Cancer Panel which recommended that the US "honor and make payments according to the judgments of the Marshall Islands Tribunal." Observing that US has yet to fund Tribunal judgments beyond the initially level of $150 million, he concluded that the Marshallese lack the means, infrastructure, and technical capacity to find durable solutions to the dislocation to their indigenous ways of life. He called for the immediate development of a national and regional plan for nuclear security and restoration of a sustainable way of life, similar to the initiatives undertaken for the benefit of affected-populations by States that historically carried out and continue to carry-out nuclear testing programmes. Issue-specific recommendations offer a framework by which truth, justice, and reparation might achieved through actions involving the Marshall Islands Government, the United States, the UN and its specialized agencies and institutions, and other members of the international community.

Responding to the Special Rapporteur's report, Marshall Islands Minister of Foreign Affairs Phillip H. Muller called to the Council's attention the fact that two UN resolutions on nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands remain the only instances in which the UN ever explicitly authorized the testing of nuclear weapons. "Adopted in 1954 and 1956 in rejection of our petitions to halt the testing, those resolutions made specific assurances of fairness, justice and respect for human rights, which have never been met. This continued denial of justice to our people is completely unacceptable." The Marshall Islands welcomed the Rapporteur's recommendations and urged the United States and the international community to do likewise.

The United States acknowledged the contributions of constructive dialogue but rejected the validity of a human rights review of nuclear weapon testing, arguing "that nuclear testing is not, fundamentally, an issue of 'management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes.' Particularly when described in terms of 'improper' or 'environmentally sound' management." The US disagreed with a number of assertions of human rights law within the report, and disagreed that there is a continuing obligation by the international community to encourage a "final and just resolution" of the issue. The United States cited the adoption of a Compact of Free Association and expenditures of $600 million to date for various technical problems, including $150 million for nuclear claims, as evidence of their efforts, and assured the United Nations that "Experts and scientists from across the U.S. Government will continue their decades long engagement in the Marshall Islands to address the issues that arose from our nuclear testing."

In the ensuing interactive dialogue between Nations, Institutions, and NGOS, speakers recognized the continued presence of radioactive contaminants in the Marshall Islands and reaffirmed the existence of a special responsibility by the United States towards the people of the Marshall Islands, and the need for continuing and increased levels of bilateral cooperation. They also called for radioactive waste, environmental contamination, and related human rights issues of nuclear militarism to be adequately addressed bilateral and through the United Nations system.

***

Statement of Mrs. Lemeyo Abon, September 13, 2012

Organization: Cultural Survival

Item: Item 3 Interactive Dialogue, Human Rights Council Twenty-first session

RE: (A/HRC/21/48/Add.1) Report of the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, Calin Georgescu. Addendum – Mission to the Marshall Islands (27-30 March 2012) and United States of America (24-27 April 2012)

Title: Health and Resettlement in the Marshall Islands

Speaker: Mrs. Lemeyo ABON

Madame President, Distinguished Delegates:

I want to thank Cultural Survival for sponsoring my participation at this forum. My name is Lemeyo Abon, and I speak today as the President of ERUB. The word erub means "damaged" or "broken," and it is an apt name for an organization of Marshallese nuclear survivors.

On March 1st, 1954, I was 14 years old, living on the island of Eneaetok on Rongelap Atoll. This was the day I first experienced injustice. It was the day that deprived me of peace. The bomb by the code name 'Bravo' was exploded on Bikini Atoll just 180 km upwind from Rongelap. Unlike other nuclear weapons tested over the previous 8 years, there was no warning given to the people on Rongelap and other islands downwind of the blast. I was playing when the poisonous debris from the bomb fell on me. I didn't know what it was but because it looked like snow, I began playing with it. But suddenly it burned my eyes and mouth. Later in the evening I was so sick. All the people on the island were very sick, especially the children. The next day my skin was torn up and covered with sores. I had skin burns so badly I was in pain. My hair started to fall off. After two days of drinking contaminated water, eating contaminated food and breathing the contaminated air, we were evacuated by the U.S.

One would think being rescued by a big military ship abandoning the poisonous atoll would end the injustice, but no, that was just the beginning. Much more inhumane treatment was yet to be bestowed upon us. After evacuation we became subjects of study in a top-secret research program that documented, but did not treat our injuries. The studies continued and expanded when were returned to home islands three years later, with twice-a year visits from scientists who probed, sampled and documented the changes in our bodies in a research effort that continued for decades.

In my community, we did not learn until the 1970s that our homeland was dangerously contaminated with nuclear fallout. Realizing our lives and future were being destroyed, we asked the US government to evacuate us again. They refused, and finally in 1985 we received the help of Greenpeace and we abandoned our home islands, our only possession.

This deeply disturbing history has immense and painful consequences. To this day women in the Marshall Islands give birth to jellyfish babies, or babies born with no bones in their bodies and translucent skin. Sometimes they are born alive and live for a few minutes or hours, and you can see the blood moving through their bodies before they die. We give birth to babies with missing limbs, or their organs and spinal cords on the outside of their bodies. We never experienced these types of births before the U.S. testing program. We have complained about these births for decades and we are always told by the U.S. Government that they are not the result of radiation exposure. Yet, our language, our history, our stories have no record of these births before the testing program. After the testing program we've had to create new words to describe the creatures we give birth to.

And for those that survive, we have few resources to provide a life with dignity. Today in the Marshall Islands there is no oncologist to treat the many cancers that have become too common in our lives. Chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer does not exist in the Marshall Islands so we have to leave the country for treatment. Because the US denies that our radiation exposures have affected the health of children and their children, only a few people are eligible for government-funded medical treatment for their radiogenic cancers, disease, and conditions.

We believe, like other indigenous nations, that it is our sacred duty to sustain the land and to take care of future generations so they can thrive, and given the many challenges of attending to health and welfare in a nation compromised by its service as a nuclear weapons proving ground, we welcome the assistance of the United States and the international community, especially if that assistance helps us to achieve adequate healthcare and a safe and secure environment.

We gave the world knowledge of the many ways that radiation can destroy a human being, yet today we see our cultural ways of life sorely affected by the loss of our beloved homes, and our people plagued by illness caused by radiation. Our experience is that nuclear fallout creates damages that endure and expand. Yet, U.S. assistance programs continue to contract and deny.

An island may be remediated, with radioactive soil, plants, and debris removed, but is it safe? In our culture we rely on the wealth of many islands to get access to the food, medicine, housing, water and other resources. A single coral island in the Marshall Islands cannot support a community, and a partial cleanup of one island is not the same as restoring our homelands.

The nuclear survivors of ERUB and the Marshall Islands applaud the investigation of the Special Rapporteur into the human rights violations connected to the U.S. testing of nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands and we welcome his recommendations that the United States should fully fund the awards made through the RMI Nuclear Claims Tribunal, expand medical assistance programs, assist in building a national healthcare system that can attend to the legacies of nuclear testing, and help us to assess and restore our severely contaminated environment.

We have a saying jej bok non won ke jemake which means 'if not us, who?' We have to act now, we have to let peace prevail, this is our time for the future of our children and grandchildren. I urge this council and the members of the United Nations to take action to not only help us help ourselves, but to make sure that such miseries do not occur ever again.

Thank you.

Statement of Mrs. Abacca Anjain-Madisson, President, Iju in Ean club (Rongelapese Women Club)

September 14, 2012

Human Rights Council 21st Session, Item 3, General Debate

NGO: Cultural Survival. Speaker: Mrs. Abacca Anjain-Madisson, President, Iju in Ean club (Rongelapese Women Club)

RE: (A/HRC/21/48/Add.1) Report of the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, Calin Georgescu. Addendum – Mission to the Marshall Islands (27-30 March 2012) and United States of America (24-27 April 2012)

Mdm. President:

Let me begin by saying that I, and my two Marshallese survivor friends, strongly endorse and appreciate the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur. We join the Marshall Islands and others who spoke this morning in requesting that the General Assembly, the Security Council, and the Human Rights Council work with all parties to ensure that these recommendations move to action.

I am humbled to speak as a delegate from the NGO Cultural Survival as nuclear testing threatens every aspect of our culture. I appear before you today on behalf of the women and children of Rongelap Atoll and the Marshall Islands as a whole.

Out of 67 hydrogen and atomic bomb exploded in the US testing program in the Marshall Islands form 1946-1958, the 'Bravo' shot was the strongest hydrogen bomb exploded on March 1, 1954 on Bikini atoll and clouds carried nuclear fallout that rained down on the food crops, water catchments, houses, and bodies of children and women who were going about their usual activities. Declassified information indicates that if the Rongelapese had not moved in three days, all residents would have died of acute radiation: the US moved the residents after 2.5 days, just shy of lethal doses.

Thirty-one years after the Bravo shot exploded, residents of Rongelap were getting sick especially the women and children from eating of and living on the highly contaminated atoll. Women gave birth to deformed babies, jellyfish and grapes-like babies, stillbirths and monster-like babies not to mention miscarriages that were very common even amongst women not exposed to nuclear fallout, the second and third generations. The longer the women lived on Rongelap the more health complications developed such as breast, thyroid, uterine, and stomach cancers and gave birth to mentally retarded children. Regardless of constant complaints, the US Government was not truthful to the community about our health and safety; instead the Rongelapese were used as guinea pigs for top secret US military research to learn how radiation effects human beings. Out of concern for the sake of their children and grandhildren, the community fled their homeland to a nearby tiny and desolate islet called Mejatto in 1985 where they still live with thanks to the Chiefs and the NGO Greenpeace.

In 2006, the US Government declared Rongelap safe and decided it would force the people to return home within this year or next or lose resettlement funds. The US wants us to return even if the clean up of the soil is not complete according to an MOU signed in 1992. The Resettlement Fund we may lose if we disagree that Rongelap is safe includes funding for remediation and monitoring, food , transportation, educational and medical needs while living on Mejatto. The US mandate is a total breech of the MOU from 1992 because not all 1,557 acres, including the neighboring islets, will be cleaned but only 200 acres on the main island of Rongelap has been remediated to date. The US once again failed in its promises and wants to punish us for not following its directives.

The recent US ultimatum is dividing the Rongelapese community, including our local government, clan leaders, and families. This ultimatum certainly will take away our rights to live free from danger and our indigenous rights to a clean environment. Governments do not own land in our culture; in fact, women do as it's a matrilineal society. Furthermore, once people are on their own land, nothing will stop them from the potentially dangerous practices of visiting and gathering local food and herbal medicine from highly contaminated lands in the north where these culturally essential resources are available, but the radiation levels are highest. Coconut juice, milk and crabs are the main staples but they are highly contaminated and resettled people will consume them regardless of US policies. Women and newborn infants after birth undergo herbal baths that require the drinking of concentrated herbs for at least three months. Older women will pound and touch the contaminated leaves and fetch wood for fire to prepare the herbs. The best foods are always local foods that will be given to mothers in order to produce breast milk. Not to mention, every birthday, funeral, church activity requires people to gather and celebrate the Marshallese way, using many local resources. No laws or anybody will ever be able to prevent the Rongelapese from eating off their land. Therefore, radiation intake must be unlimited or it won't be safe.

Today at this moment hope is alive again, we have confidence the pain and sufferings of our lost loved ones will not be in vain and that this committee will take seriously the Special Rapporteur's report and support our refusal to prematurely return to our contaminated homeland before United States fulfill it's moral responsibilities as promised. We the people of Rongelap, the Women and Children are people, too.

Kommol tata and God Bless us all.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Barbara Rose Johnston

Barbara Rose Johnston is an environmental anthropologist at the Center for Political Ecology in Santa Cruz, California. Her efforts to document the human environmental impact of nuclear weapons testing and the experiences of hosting the cold war nuclear enterprise are published in her edited volume, "Half-lives and Half-truths: Confronting the Radioactive Legacies of the Cold War" (SAR Press, 2007) and the co-authored book, "Consequential Damages of Nuclear War: The Rongelap Report with Holly Barker" (Left Coast Press 2008). Her most recent book is "Life and Death Matters: Human Rights, Environment, and Social Justice" (Left Coast Press 2011).


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