‘Ordinary hero’ who challenged French Polynesian ‘nuclear horror’ dies


Bruno Barrillot talking about the legacy of French nuclear testing in the Pacific in the Witnesses of the Bomb programme in a 2013 multimedia historical record. Video: cdgr0820

By Mathilde Régis

Campaigner and former priest Bruno Barrillot, who devoted his life to challenging French nuclear tests in Algeria and the Pacific and who sought justice for the victims, has died. He was aged 77.

In 1984, he founded the Lyon-based Centre de Documentation et de Recherche sur la Paix et les Conflits (CDRPC) and the non-government organisation Arms Observatory.

Bruno Barrillot … campaigner against French Pacific nuclear tests and for compensation for the victims. Image: Lyon Capitale

Finding that he could not work against the tests from within the Catholic Church, he resigned to devote his efforts to the campaign against the tests.

Radio New Zealand reports that last year, the French Polynesian government reinstated Barrillot – three years after the previous administration, led by Gaston Flosse, had sacked him as the head of the territory’s body dealing with the aftermath of the French nuclear weapons tests that ended in 1996.

Barrillot’s duties included work on the rehabilitation of the former test-related military sites on Moruroa and Fangataufa as well as assisting in efforts to amend the French nuclear testing compensation law.

After the French sinking of the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior in July 1985, Barrillot focussed on the damage caused by the nuclear tests in the Pacific, reports Radio NZ.

He was also the co-founder of French Polynesia’s nuclear test veteran organisations.

Barrillot was described by the online publication Lyon Capitale as an “ordinary hero” who had done great work for victims of the nuclear testing.

France carried out 210 nuclear tests between 1960 and 1996 — 17 in the Algerian Sahara Desert and 193 in French Polynesia.

Bruno Barrillot will be buried in Tahiti.

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