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Tuesday, June 9, 1998 Published at 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK


'We're not beaten' say N-test veterans

Britain conducted six atomic tests between 1957 and 1958

Two ex-servicemen who claim their health problems were the result of British nuclear tests in the 1950s have vowed to fight on after their case was rejected by the European Court of Human Rights.

[ image: Servicemen setting sail for the Pacific]
Servicemen setting sail for the Pacific
The men claim they were exposed to fall-out during nuclear tests by Britain in the Pacific 40 years ago, causing them lasting illness.

They said the government had acted deliberately to find out what effect radiation would have on them.

The pair took their case to Strasbourg, but the court rejected their claim that the ministry concealed documents which could have won them compensation or a pension.

BBC's Joshua Rozenberg: "The court viewed whether the men were given a fair chance to prove their case"
One of them, 60-year-old Ken McGinley, said they would try to get the decision reviewed on a technical point.

His partner in the action, Edward Egan, 60, said they were not yet beaten by the ruling, from which four of the nine sitting judges had dissented. Their objections were not immediately stated.

He said they were "slightly disappointed" because of the narrowness of the decision, but they hoped to get it reviewed on a technical piont.

Frank McGingley and his lawyer Ian Anderson tell the BBC they will not give up
The two men were among 12,000 military personnel posted to Christmas Island between 1957 and 1958, when Britain exploded six nuclear weapons into the atmosphere.

But ex-navy-servicemen Mr Egan, who suffers from lung disease, and former Royal Engineer Mr McGinley, who has a blood disorder, were both denied war pensions.

[ image: Ken McGinley, one of the two who lost]
Ken McGinley, one of the two who lost
The government claims there was no available evidence that their health complaints were a result of the tests.

The ruling will be a blow to thousands of other servicemen and their families who were hoping a positive result could eventually lead to compensation pay-outs of up to 100,000 each.

The Strasbourg ruling centred on the veterans' claim they were unable to gain access to official documents which they believed might prove a link between the tests and their illnesses.

Nuclear test veteran Derek Fiddaman: "I'm bitterly disappointed for those who lost"
The fact that these documents were not supplied to them deprived them of access to a pensions appeal tribunal, they argued.

Judge Rudolf Bernhardt ruled that the MoD had not violated the men's human rights by denying them access to documents.

Court had 'no jurisdiction'

And he said the court had no jurisdiction to consider complaints over the alleged lack of protection offered during the tests.

But speaking of the review, Mr McGinley said: "There was a very fine point called Rule Six, where the Ministry of Defence say all we had to do was to contact them and they would release any documentation relating, for example, to radiation levels on Christmas Island.

"That is utter garbage. We're not giving up hope at all."

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