17 Aug 2004

Marshall Islands nuclear claims tribunal imposes deadline for claims

4:32 pm on 17 August 2004

All the atolls in the Marshall Islands are expected to submit formal claims for damages to the country's Nuclear Claims Tribunal before the end of this month.

The tribunal's public advocate, Bill Graham, says they imposed the deadline because they are running out of funds to continue operating.

He says they have only five million U.S. dollars left in the trust fund which not only means limited partial payments to claimants awarded damages but it puts into question the existence of the tribunal.

"We know the claims are still coming in, awards of compensation continue to be made, property damages claims in Rongelap and Utirik, for example, are very near completion. We have other claims that have been filed and now we're anticipating formal claims on behalf of every other atoll in the country. These all need to be resolved so there's a need for the tribunal to continue to exist."

Mr Graham says the tribunal expects to sign a renewed memorandum of understanding with the government shortly which will fund its operations for at least the next year.

And, he says by then, the U.S. Congress may have agreed to additional funds for claims from nuclear damages arising from the nuclear testing in the country.