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UK high court to hear British nuclear test veterans suit

The UK Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday granted leave of appeal in Ministry of Defence v. AB [docket] to British former servicemen seeking compensation for illnesses resulting from participating in nuclear weapons testing. The veterans are seeking to overturn [BBC report] a 2009 High Court ruling [judgment, PDF] that denied the men compensation for the adverse health consequences allegedly resulting from exposure to radiation. The men claim that between October 1952 and September 1958, the British government performed nuclear weapons testing in Australia and on Christmas Island, and that the radiation exposure from those tests caused illnesses including cancers, skin defects and birth defects in their children. The lower court ruled that 9 of the 10 lead cases were barred by the statute of limitations. The defendant, UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) [official website], contends that the group of over 1,000 veterans will not be able to show that the radiation caused their illnesses. The High Court will hear arguments for damages later this year.

Victims of radiation exposure have sought compensation on numerous occasions. In 2009, 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 that same year, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit [official website] affirmed the dismissal [opinion, PDF] of complaints brought by the inhabitants and descendants of the Bikini and Enewetak Atolls seeking further compensation arising out of bomb testing in the 1940s and 1950s. In 2006, a British veteran received £ 40,000 [BBC report] from the US under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act [materials text] for his involvement in the allied British-US testing. The MOD did not compensate him due to a lack of evidence connecting the tests to the illness.

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