16 Dec 2013

Hope after Tahiti court annuls French nuke compensation rejection

6:10 pm on 16 December 2013

French Polynesia's nuclear test veterans association says a court order to re-examine a woman's compensation claim brings hope, but is unlikely to result in a victory for victims of French nuclear testing.

The 43-year-old woman, who lived in Rikitea and now has cancer, says she was exposed to nuclear testing until the age of four, but had her case rejected by the defence minister's compensation committee in May.

A court in Tahiti has now said the commission's response was given without researching her circumstances properly, and ordered that be done within six months.

The head of Moruroa e tatou, Roland Oldham, says this case is first of its kind, as the law does not take into account claimants who were exposed while under the age of 15.

He told Mary Baines it is unlikely the claim will be successful, as it will just end up back at the compensation committee.

ROLAND OLDHAM: Even people who work on Moruroa have been rejected. The way we look at it, if the people who are working on Moruroa, where the bomb exploded, don't get compensation, it's very hard for other people, the population, the inhabitants of French Polynesia, to get compensation, as well. Because, really, France does not seem to accept responsibility of 30 years of nuclear testing and all the victims and all the people that are dying of cancer.

MARY BAINES: So what is the significance of this court order?

RO: The one concerning this lady is more or less telling us that we are right, [indistinct] her condition should be taken into consideration and she should have a compensation. But again we are still assured that the Ministry of Defence will make another appeal. It will last and last and last. It's hard for me to tell you because we had so many false hopes until now, so much disillusion, that I cannot tell that it's a victory or whatever, because it's going to be again an appeal probably from the Ministry of Defence so we're still waiting for the final result. They make the laws so complicated because there's a lot of things that are very hard to understand.

MB: So the law didn't take into account people under the age of 15?

RO: Yeah. So they are talking about the children who were about 15 at that time of the nuclear tests. Even that we cannot understand completely. Because, why the 15. I mean people older than 15 can catch thyroid [cancer] through nuclear fall-out, like children and babies can also get thyroid [cancer] and other kinds of cancer. So it is really to confuse the whole thing.

MB: So it's hard to say what will happen from here, you think, because there will be another defence?

RO: It's hard to tell what is going to happen from here. The procedure is so long. It goes back again in front of the same commission that had decided to reject the compensation. We have been very patient, we have been trying to use all the legal ways and still France is just rejecting all our compensation action.