Nuclear Veterans Appeal To Australian Human Rights Commission
Lawyers representing 295 military veterans and their families afflicted with terrible health problems due to the British nuclear tests carried out in Australia between 1952 and 1963 are taking the case to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
They argue the Menzies government breached their human rights by ordering them to be exposed to the harmful effects of radiation in full knowledge of the potential damage to their health.
Joshua Dale, a human rights law specialist at Stacks/Goudkamp in Sydney, said the decision to host the nuclear tests and order Australians to be used as virtual guinea pigs breached three articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that Australia signed at the United Nations in 1948.
Article 3: The right to life, liberty and security of person.
Article 5: The right not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Article 25: The right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services……
“We’ve been fighting for redress for nuclear veterans and their families for years, but after the UK courts rejected an appeal for damages last year we’ve embarked on this one last avenue for justice,” Mr Dale said.
“We hope the AHRC will examine the case and recommend to the government that it right the wrongs that have been done to these people over decades, and provide compensation and the gold card for medical assistance.
“The nuclear veterans have suffered higher death rates, higher cancer rates and worse health problems than the general population. The effects of the nuclear tests are still going on today. Many effects of radiation are hereditary, and children and grandchildren of the nuclear veterans have been afflicted with health problems and deformities.”
Joshua Dale will deliver the complaint to the AHRC on Thursday. This news is embargoed until then. But interviews with Joshua Dale (who is in Sydney) and nuclear veterans can be arranged prior to a general press release going out on Thursday.
NUCLEAR VETERANS CASE BACKGROUND INFORMATION
- Plenty of information on the health dangers of being exposed to radiation was available to the Australian government at the time of the British nuclear tests. But the veterans were not told of these dangers and no attempt was made to protect them from exposure. Many report being ordered to fly into nuclear clouds or on to the ground surface within hours of the nuclear explosion. They stood in shorts and shirts as they were tested by British scientists in white full protection radiation suits. Australian servicemen were not told to wash thoroughly after exposure while scientists did so.
- Of the 8,000 Australian service personnel involved in the tests, around 2,000 are still alive. Nuclear veterans have three times higher rate of cancers, 30 per cent higher death rates, and three times higher rates of genetic abnormality among their children than the general population.
- Little was known about the effects of the nuclear tests on those involved until the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia in 1985. It recommended compensation to the veterans. But while the United States, France, Russia and even China paid compensation to afflicted nuclear veterans of their tests, Britain and Australia have for decades refused to do so.
- The only compensation paid to Australian nuclear servicemen was for a small group suffering from two specific conditions – leukemia (except lymphatic leukemia) and a rare blood disorder called multiple myeloma.
- In 1993 the British government paid the Australian government 20 million pounds to clean up the still radioactive testing sites. In 1994 the Australian government paid $13.5 million in compensation to the Aboriginal Maralinga Tjarutja people for damage to their lands. Nothing was provided for nuclear veterans and civilians for their illnesses and loss.
- Five years ago Stacks/Goudkamp law firm in Martin Place took up the fight for compensation representing 300 surviving Australian nuclear veterans. The statute of limitations prevented the case being pursued in Australian courts, so the firm linked up with British lawyers in the UK representing 1000 British nuclear veterans who had won the right to take the UK Ministry of Defence to Court seeking damages.
- Sadly the UK Court of Appeal defeated that move in 2012, saying it was virtually impossible to prove that a health problem today was directly caused by exposure to radiation 50 years earlier.
- Now Joshua Dale of Stacks/Goudkamp, who has worked in international courts in The Hague and Cambodia, is part of the Stacks/Goudkamp team launching a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission for 295 nuclear veterans that the Australian government breached the servicemens’ human rights in the 1950s under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- The Labor government of Ben Chifley signed the Declaration at the United Nations in 1948. Chifley strongly supported the Declaration as did Robert Menzies who took government in 1949. In 1951 Menzies approved a British request to test its nuclear weapons on Australian soil without even consulting his cabinet.
- Stacks/Goudkamp’s submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission asks for it to find the government breached the nuclear veterans’ human rights under the Declaration and that the Australian government failed to protect its people from exposure to harmful radiation, failed to inform them of the dangers, failed to monitor their health and once it knew of the problem failed to provide necessary medical care and social security benefits.
- While the AHRC can’t make any compensation awards it can make recommendations and it’s hoped such a finding would finally embarrass the government into providing compensation and health care the nuclear veterans deserve. The submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission can be supplied on request – embargoed until 5pm Thursday Feb 21. It contains several case studies.
Contact: Frank Walker Media consultant to Stacks Law Firm
0417 090 346