Inuit battle to shut US air base

05.Nov.03    Análisis y Noticias

2003-11-03, AP/matamat

Inuit hunters are to ask Denmark’s Supreme Court
on Monday to close down
one of America’s most secretive and strategically
important military
The Inuit claim they were illegally evicted from
traditional grounds in
northern Greenland and they are demanding the
right of return.
The US would like to use Thule air base as a site
for the controversial
Star Wars National Missile Defence System.
The case pits a superpower against the world’s
smallest indigenous people.

Thule contains powerful surveillance equipment,
making it an ideal
existing site for America.
Lawyers representing the Inuit claim that their
very survival is at stake
as the territory to which they were exiled no
longer has sufficient food
stocks to sustain them.
In 1953 the Danish authorities forcibly evicted
the Inuit from their
ancestral lands in Northern Greenland where for
thousands of years they
hunted whales, polar bears and other arctic
Their removal enabled the Americans to establish
a vital arctic outpost.

Thule’s location allowed the Americans to monitor
Soviet military
activities and, most importantly, to give early
warning of any possible
first nuclear strike.
Right of return

Four years ago, a Danish High Court ruled that
the Inuit had been
illegally exiled but denied them the right of
The Supreme Court justices now have to decide
whether or not they have the
legal right to go home.
Acalug Lunga is a member of the Greenland home
rule parliament and author
of a book called Right of Return.
The Americans need to understand that you don’t
just take away the homes
of people - even in Greenland - and you don’t
take away their livelihood.
I think it’s also important to send a message
through this process here at
the Supreme Court in Denmark that United States
also recognises our
rights,” he said.
The Inuits’ lawyers believe if they win the
Danish authorities may have to
order the Americans to move their base.
Since the Cold War ended Thule has evolved into
America’s ear on the
northern hemisphere.
Washington is planning to upgrade its
surveillance capabilities and is
also seeking Danish permission to use the base as
part of the Star Wars
National Missile Defence System.
The Americans will not be represented in court as
this dispute is
technically between the Inuit and the Danish
Government but a spokesman
for the US embassy in Copenhagen said it was
keeping a close eye on the
Legal experts assess the Inuits’ chances of
success at 50-50.