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France: Compensation of Victims of French Nuclear Testing

(July 8, 2009) On June 30, 2009, the French National Assembly adopted a draft law on the compensation of victims of French nuclear testing (Projet de loi relative à la reconnaissance et à l'indemnisation des victimes des essais nucléaires français, 30 juin 2009, Assemblée Nationale website, available at http://www.assemblee-nationa
). The draft law provides for the financial compensation of any person, civilian or military, who suffers from a radioactivity-induced illness directly resulting from exposure to radiation. If the person is deceased, the request for compensation may be presented by his or her heirs. A list of illnesses giving rise to compensation has been established in conformity with the works of the international scientific community. (Projet de loi, id.)

To qualify for compensation, the victim of a nuclear test must have either resided or stayed:

1. in the Military Experimentation Saharan Center or its periphery between February 13, 1960, and December 31, 1967, or in the Military Experimentation Oasis Center or its periphery between November 1961 and December 1967;

2. in the Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls between July 2, 1966, and December 1998 or in certain exposed zones of French Polynesia between July 2, 1966, and December31, 1974;

3. in certain zones of the Hoa atoll between July 2, 1966, and December 1998; or

4. in certain zones of the Island of Tahiti between July 19, 1974, and December 31, 1974.

A review committee composed of medical experts and presided over by either a councillor of the Conseil d'Etat (France' highest administrative court) or of the Cour de Cassation (France's highest judicial court) will examine the compensation requests. The victims or their heirs will have to file a request within five years of the publication of the law. The committee will have access to any relevant medical information, and doctor-patient confidentiality cannot be used to counter the committee's demands for such data. If the request for compensation is granted, the victim will receive a lump-sum payment. (Projet de loi, id.) The Senate needs to pass the same version of the draft law, before it can be published in the official gazette and enter into force.