27 December 2013

France ordered to reopen Moruroa nuclear compensation case

A 1971 photo of a nuclear bomb detonated by the French government at the Mururoa atoll, French Polynesia. (AP Photo)
A 1971 photo of a nuclear bomb detonated by the French government
at the Mururoa atoll, French Polynesia. (AP Photo)


A court in French Polynesia has directed France to re-open a compensation case involving for a woman with cancer, which she claims is linked to French nuclear tests.

The French Compensation Commission rejected the claim, arguing the risk posed by tests on Moruroa Atoll was negligible.

But the Polynesian court says the Commission failed to research the woman's circumstances, and now it's set a six month deadline for it to complete a re-examination.

Ronald Oldham, president of the Nuclear Test Veterans Association, Moruroa e tatou says it is not unusual for compensation cases rejected by Ministry of Defence to be re-opened and the delays mean many victims pass away during the court process and never see compensation.

Presenter: Richard Ewart

Speaker: Ronald Oldham, president, Nuclear Test Veterans Association, Moruroa e tatou

OLDHAM: There's a lot of cases like that, not only the court in Polynesia, but also even around France. A lot of the compensation case has been rejected by the Ministry of Defence, a lot victims went to court and the judgement of the court say that the decision of the Ministry of Defence is not a good one. They should not reject this compensation. But the problem is which mean we have to go back to zero, start again, and Committee to examine and compensation will get hold of the file again and it's going to take another years, another two years, because this particular case already been three years and have been rejected and went to court, so the decision of the court give us we want this court case, which mean we have to go back to zero, start all over again, which is not a good thing for the victim.

It seems to us it's very clear that this system that's been put in place by the French government is to delay and delay and delay as much as possible and we go round and round for the past ten years, we go from court to court and the compensation is still not a reality for the victim, which is very critical for us, because a lot of the victims are dead by now and a lot of them are sick and the more they're dying, the less cases left for the victim or for the family to go for compensation and also there's a lot of discouragement for the victim themself, so it's very hard for us.

EWART: Can I ask Ronald, I mean does precedence play a part at all in any of these compensation cases or is each compensation case treated as if there'd never been any others?

OLDHAM: There has been a couple where we have won the cases we find finally, only four for the Polynesian people and which is very low, because we had 30 years of nuclear testing and thousand and thousand of people had been working on the site,and the workers as I said before, a lot of them are dying and the fall out have been over 300 fallout, all over Polynesia and all the island had been touched by the fallout, even Tahiti. There has been over 30 on Tahiti himself. And so which is for us the result this low compensation is just not good at all. It just the French government just dragging on, dragging on, make it longer and I must say a lot of the victim have abandoned, because they don't believe in this court, in this justice.

EWART: But Ronald, can I ask, from a legal stand point, you say that there have been some cases which have been successful. Surely the evidence presented in those successful cases must play a part in the cases that come after that, which is the reason why I was I asking about precedence. I mean if a court has ruled that some people were affected by nuclear fallout, logically you would think that as other cases came on, that go in their favour, but seemingly not?

OLDHAM: No, it's not like that, because they examine every case, case by case, individually, and it takes years for one cases. No, it's not normally as you say, logically if one or two or three person have had a cancer and be recognised by the court, by the Committee of compensation as good. It should be good for everybody, for a lot of people that those are in a similar situation, but it's not like that. They make it that every case, you have to fill up your file, every cases have to be examined and then one Committee at the end decided yes or no. I must tell you that on almost 800 files, that went through this Committee for decision, only eleven have had positive decision. I'm talking about the whole of France, all the French military, and the workers. Only eleven on 800 and that's four years it's been going on for this Committee and that's very slow, just too slow as I was saying before.

EWART: So, are we reaching the point now where those that are still left to go through the courts, may just decide to give up and it's just not worth the effort anymore?

OLDHAM: A lot of them, no, of our people thinking like that and we're still battling on the political level, which mean in the Senate in France, to have this law changed, but it seems to me that when it comes to nuclear compensation and the Socialist Party or the Right Party have the same attitude. There's an attitude of to me for denying, denying our right, the right of the victims, and the whole thing is very hypocritical. I mean the all the head of government all rush to South Africa to honour the death of Mandela, and all this sort of thing, while in they're own country, they don't recognise the right, the minimum right to their own victim. We've been battling for years and years and we still at the stage where it is very negative as far as the result are concerned.

We really asking ourself what do we have to do to get proper justice.