French Polynesia court dismisses nuclear compensation cases

[JURIST] The Labor Tribunal of Papeete [official website, in French] in French Polynesia [official website, in French] on Friday considered [press release, PDF, in French; statement, DOC, in French] for the first time a demand brought directly against the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) [official website, in French] by or on behalf of eight former South Pacific test site workers. Of the eight cases, the court dismissed three nuclear compensation cases for lack of proof and procedural difficulties, but examined five of them. Damages were awarded only to each of the three children of one deceased worker worth $11,000, but dismissed the widow's claim based on current law. The judge ordered further medical investigation for four of the remaining compensation cases, of which two former workers are still alive. The costs for such examinations will be paid by the CEA or the Experiment Center of the Pacific (CEP). Claimants in all eight cases had petitioned for a pension from the Caisse de Prevoyance Social, the Tahitian organism charged with ensuring social security, but were rejected due to local law on statutes of limitations and because the diseases are not officially part of the radiation induced diseases that the CPS recognizes. Moruroa e Tatou [advocacy website, in French], the organization of former workers from the test sites of Moruroa and Fangataufa, is committed [Radio Australia transcript] to continue pursuing the claims that were dismissed by the judge based on current law. The organization's president Roland Oldham decried the amount awarded in damages by the court for the deceased worker's children as "a very bad joke" and expressed hope that the Nuclear Compensation bill under current consideration [Tahiti Presse report, in French] in France will improve former worker's prosepects for recovery by changing the required burden of proof. The French parliament will vote on the bill on June 30.

Earlier this month, the British High Court of Justice ruled [judgment, PDF; JURIST report] that military veterans involved in nuclear tests have the right to sue the Ministry of Defense for injuries resulting from exposure to radiation, but recommended mediation as a means for achieving a settlement citing the uncertainties of litigation and the age of the veterans. Recently, the Tokyo High Court granted an appeal [JURIST report] to consider 30 people for official recognition as atomic bomb victims resulting from the US atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945. Earlier this year, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit [official website] affirmed the dismissal [opinion, PDF] of complaints brought by the people and descendants of the Bikini and Enewetak Atolls seeking further compensation arising out of bomb testing in the 1940s and 1950s.

 

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