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Veterans Exposed Rob Edwards
New Scientist 8 Feb 97

THE British government acted illegally and dishonestly towards veterans of the atomic bomb tests in the Pacific, the European Commission of Human Rights concluded last week. The commission found the government guilty of violating veterans' rights to a fair hearing to their claims for compensation for illnesses they have suffered since being exposed to radiation on Christmas Island almost forty years ago. it has referred the veterans' claims to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The court will hear the case in the next 18 months. "This is a dramatic vindication of our decades-long struggle for justice against a massive government cover-up," says Ken McGinley, chairman of the British Nuclear Tests Veterans Association. "Atonement may now be at hand for one of the last major atrocities of the Cold War." For the past ten years the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has refused to award compensation to test veterans who have since contracted cancer. The commission, which consists of 26 judges and lawyers from the 40 countries that belong to the Council of Europe, concludes in a detailed report that the British government breached articles 6 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 6 states that "everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing" and article 8 says that "everyone has the right to respect for his private life". The report argues that the government has deprived veterans of information about radiation levels vital to challenging the MoD's refusal of compensation.

Last year, the commission asked the British government about the original records of radiation levels on Christmas Island after the nuclear explosions. The government replied that "information from such records" was summarised in a report by the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston published in 1993. The commission accuses the government of "lacking in candour" and concludes that the original records have been withheld for reasons of national security. The report points out that the veterans had extreme difficulties discovering which records existed, which had been destroyed, which had been lost and which had been withheld. "In such circumstances, the commission considers it justifiable to view the public records system as, for all practical purpos( s, inaccessible," it says. The commission says that government memoranda from the 1950s and the fact that the veterans were made to line up on the beach at Christmas Island when the explosions took place give it "a basis for reasonable anxiety and concern". The government's contention that the veterans were not exposed to radiation as part of a scientific experiment is also described by the commission as "unconvincing". Two studies commissioned by the MoD in 1988 and 1993 claimed that test veterans had suffered no detectable increases in their risk of contracting cancer, although these studies have been criticised by the veterans and by a US advisory committee consisting of 14 leading experts in radiation and health. The commission argues that the veterans should be compensated. It points out that the US government has paid out more than $25 million to 676 people from the Marshall Islands, who were farther away from smaller nuclear tests than British veterans. The British government has also paid E20 million to people exposed to atomic tests in Australia.

NZ Herald Dec 97 Government used him as a Guinea pig.

An Australian veteran accused the federal government of using him as a guinea pig to test protective clothing and equipment while working in nuclear testing fields. More than 20,000 servicemen were exposed to radiation when the British Government exploded atom and hydrogen bombs in Australia and the Pacific in the 1950s. The University of Dundee found that of 2300 surveyed, at least 400 had descendents affected by handicaps or chronic medical conditions. Of seven veterans who formed the association in 1972 all but Ric Johnstone died of cancer. He was treated for radiation poisoning and later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. They were asked to clean radiation from vehicles in protective clothing which was lethal in the desert heat and had to removie it to survive.