THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- The United Nations' highest court ruled Wednesday that it does not have jurisdiction to take on cases brought by the tiny South Pacific nation of the Marshall Islands that sought to urge Britain, India and Pakistan to resume negotiations to eradicate the world's stockpile of nuclear weapons.
In a blow to disarmament activists, International Court of Justice Court President Ronny Abraham said the Marshall Islands failed to prove that a legal dispute over disarmament existed between it and the three nuclear powers before the case was filed in 2014, and that "consequently the court lacks jurisdiction."
Abraham acknowledged that the Marshall Islands has a particular interest in nuclear disarmament "by virtue of the suffering of its people" during years of testing at Bikini Atoll.
At hearings in March, Marshall Islands representative Tony deBrum said he watched one of the U.S. nuclear tests in his home country as a 9-year-old boy while fishing with his grandfather.
"The entire sky turned blood red," he told judges in an emotional speech. He said some of his country's islands were "vaporized" by the tests.
The Marshall Islands originally filed cases against all nine nations that have declared or are believed to possess nuclear weapons: The U.S., Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. But only the cases against Britain, India and Pakistan got to the preliminary stage of proceedings.
In a landmark 1996 advisory opinion, the court said that using or threatening to use nuclear arms would "generally be contrary to" the laws of war and humanitarian law.
But it added that it could not definitively rule on whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be legal "in an extreme circumstance of self-defense, in which the very survival of a state would be at stake."
The judges in 1996 also unanimously stated that there is a legal obligation "to pursue in good faith" nuclear disarmament talks.