France Faces Scrutiny of South Pacific Nuclear Tests

(CN) – The International Criminal Court is examining a complaint filed against France over its past program of nuclear tests in the South Pacific, Courthouse News has confirmed.

In an email Wednesday, the ICC said it had received a complaint against France regarding its nuclear tests. The court said the complaint – as with all complaints it receives – is considered confidential, as stipulated by the court’s founding statute.

French media on Tuesday reported that Oscar Temaru, a former French Polynesian president, said France was accused of crimes against humanity over its nuclear testing in the South Pacific in a complaint filed with The Hague-based court.

Temaru announced the legal action at the United Nations, according to Agence France-Presse.

The French government conducted 193 nuclear tests on the Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls between the 1960s and 1990s, which are part of the French Polynesia archipelago. Tahiti is the best known among the islands and lies about 620 miles from the former testing ground.

Civilians and military personnel involved in the tests allegedly developed health problems due to exposure to radiation. AFP reported that about 1,000 people have filed complaints against France and that about 20 of those people have received compensation.

For years France denied responsibility for alleged health problems connected to its nuclear testing, which it said was controlled and safe. But a 2010 French law provides compensation to people who can prove cancer was caused by the testing program.

“This case aims to hold all the living French presidents accountable for the nuclear tests against our country,” Temaru told the UN, according to AFP. “We owe it to all the people who died from the consequences of nuclear colonialism.”

The scope of allegations in the complaint was not immediately known. The ICC told Courthouse News that it was “bound to protect the confidentiality of the information received.”

In this case, the ICC said it could confirm the existence of the complaint because Temaru had made it public. Temaru could not be reached for comment.

The court said its prosecutors will analyze the complaint and then decide on what step to take next.

In 2013, Le Parisien, a French newspaper, reported that declassified military records showed that nuclear tests were far more toxic than previously acknowledged.

About 150,000 military personnel and civilians worked on the nuclear tests or were present, according to news reports.

Cain Burdeau is a Courthouse News reporter based in the European Union. 

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