Statement to Special Committee on Decolonization (C-24)
Mr. Philippe NEUFFER Attorney at Law in Tahiti
New York, N.Y.
27th June 2019
Distinguished Members of the Special Committee,
One of the most egregious acts perpetuated on mankind has been the testing of nuclear weapons in spite of the known human cost, and the challenges to just compensation and reparation for the veterans and for their widows and children.
The aftermath of 30 years of French nuclear testing in our homeland continues to plague our people, victims of 193 atmospheric and underground nuclear tests from 1966 to 1997. This was equivalent to 720 Hiroshima bombs in our atmosphere, and 210 underground.
It has been 20 years since the final nuclear testing came to an end in 1996, and the moral and practical recognition of the health and social consequences of the testing which have been confirmed as inter-generational, remain a major challenge to the health and well being of our people.
The current mishandling of the nuclear waste generated by these tests is a lingering danger of monumental proportions for Maohi Nui/French Polynesia and the entire Pacific region.
The General Assembly has adopted a series of resolutions since 2013 "recognizing the significant health and environmental impacts of this nuclear testing” conducted by the administering Power in my country over this period. The resolutions further recognized the consequences of those activities on the lives and health of the people, especially children and vulnerable groups, as well as the environment of the entire Pacific region. The General Assembly resolutions have also made the natural linkage between the aftermath of the French nuclear testing in our region and the work of the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation.
The resolutions also take note of the two reports of the Secretary-General on the environmental, ecological, health and other impacts of the testing, and have requested the Secretary-General to provide continuous updates on the impacts of the testing.
Interestingly, the French had devised a compensation scheme in 2010 containing a clause suggesting that the nuclear tests were of "negligible risk." This resulted in only a handful of approvals for compensation from hundreds of claims made by our people - despite disproportionate rates of thyroid cancer and leukemia with overall cancer rates over 30 per cent higher than average.
Because of extensive public outrage in our community over this sham compensation scheme, the French National Assembly voted in February 2017 to remove the element of "negligible risk" but by the end of 2018, "negligible exposure" was re-inserted in the programme by way of an amendment to a budgetary rider in the 2019 French Finance Act establishing a "criterion of non-accountability" - "negligible risk" by different form.
It is highly disappointing for us that such important developments are not referenced in the U.N. resolution on French Polynesia, and important conclusions from existing U.N. research were omitted from the two previous Secretary-General reports. And it is highly deceiving for the people of Maohi Nui that the wives and the children of veterans of French nuclear tests still are not recognized as direct victims, and don’t have the compensation they deserve.
Thank You, Madam Chair.