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Current Event: French Polynesia’s Former President Files ICC Complaint Against France

Article by Kerensa Gimre


Photo via Parti socialiste / flickr

On October 2nd, French Polynesia’s former president, Mr. Oscar Temaru, filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) against all living French presidents for their alleged crimes against humanity testing nuclear weapons in French Polynesia from 1966 to 1996. Mr. Temaru alleged these incidents amounted to “nuclear colonialism” by the French government since French Polynesia could not reject the tests due to the threat of military intervention.


From the 1960s to the 1990s, more than 150,000 military personnel and civilians were involved in the nuclear tests. There were 368 documented instances of nuclear fallout and several organizations allege that radioactive waste was discharged into the ocean in violation of international law. There were also 147 underground explosions that destabilized atolls in the region, rendering them unfit for human activity. Recent studies show increased rates of thyroid cancer among island inhabitants. In 2010, France started a compensation fund for cancer victims, but only 20 people (of more than 1,000 who have filed claims) have received compensation under the fund because of the difficulty in proving a causal link between any one instance of cancer and the nuclear tests.


The case filed with the ICC is unlikely to succeed, since the ICC only has jurisdiction over incidents arising after July 1, 2002. There is also considerable political pressure on Mr. Temaru to drop the claims. On October 29th, France declared Mr. Temaru ineligible for his assembly seat in French Polynesia due to “campaign finance irregularities.” Mr. Temaru complains believes this action is in retaliation for the complaint he filed with the ICC.

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