5 Novembre 2015
November 5, 2015
By GEN OKAMOTO/ Staff Writer
HIROSHIMA--A group of atomic bomb survivors here has filed a lawsuit against local governments demanding recognition as victims of radioactive “black rain” and access to free medical checkups.
In the suit filed at the Hiroshima District Court on Nov. 4, the 64 plaintiffs said the Hiroshima prefectural and municipal governments should retract their earlier rejections and certify the victims as hibakusha atomic bomb survivors.
The plaintiffs argue it is unacceptable that they have not received the hibakusha certificates despite their exposure to black rain.
The plaintiffs said they believe this is the first group lawsuit demanding recognition as victims of the radioactive black rain that fell shortly after the atomic bombing of the city on Aug. 6, 1945.
The central government in 1976 officially recognized atomic bomb survivors who were exposed to black rain in an area near ground zero. The decision was based on 1953 findings by the Hiroshima local observatory, which concluded that there was “heavy” precipitation of radioactive black rain in that area.
Survivors in this area have been given free health checkups. If they develop cancer or cirrhosis, they can receive financial assistance for treatment as certified hibakusha.
But those exposed to black rain in other areas are not eligible for the relief measures. The Hiroshima prefectural and municipal governments have not issued certificates to these people in line with the central government’s designation.
The plaintiffs said the central government’s judgment was “extremely unfair.”
“Some of us have suffered cancer and other illnesses and have been worried about our health over the years due to our exposure to black rain,” one of the plaintiffs said.
After the suit was filed, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui and Hiroshima Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki released statements that said they were taking seriously the fact that victims have resorted to legal action to seek relief measures.
The municipal and prefectural governments, they said, had no choice but to reject the plaintiffs’ requests because the central government has not expanded the recognized area of heavy black rain.
The local governments have asked the central government to widen the recognized area for relief sixfold based on their study conducted in fiscal 2008.
But the central government declined that request in 2012, citing a health ministry panel report that concluded the proposed expansion lacked scientific grounds.
HIROSHIMA -- A group of 64 Hiroshima atomic bombing survivors have filed a suit demanding local governments expand areas covered by free checkups for people exposed to radioactive "black rain" after the bombing.
The plaintiffs -- all residents of Hiroshima Prefecture -- are currently not receiving assistance under the Atomic Bomb Survivors' Assistance Law as they were outside the black rain area recognized by the government. They had earlier applied to the Hiroshima prefectural and municipal governments for A-bomb survivors' certificates, but their requests were rejected.
The group filed the suit with the Hiroshima District Court on Nov. 4, demanding the Hiroshima prefectural and municipal governments issue A-bomb survivors' certificates to them. While the Hiroshima Municipal Government is demanding the black rain area recognized under the assistance law be expanded, the national government has been lukewarm to the idea. Through the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are seeking to have the government review the system for recognizing A-bomb survivors and expand the designated black rain area.
According to the complaint, the plaintiffs -- who were 5 months to 20 years old at the time of the Aug. 6, 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima by U.S. forces -- currently suffer from cancer, anemia, hypothyroidism and other symptoms due to their exposure to the radioactive black rain, which hit the city shortly after the bombing.
In March this year, the plaintiffs started applying for A-bomb survivors' certificates and another type of certificate that could be converted into the first type once they develop certain diseases with the Hiroshima prefectural and municipal governments, claiming that they were "under circumstances susceptible to radiation from the atomic bombing" and were therefore eligible for the certificates. Their requests, however, were turned down.
In the suit filed with the Hiroshima District Court, the plaintiffs are demanding the Hiroshima prefectural and municipal governments nullify their decisions to turn down their applications for those certificates. However, because the local governments' decisions were based on current laws and ordinances, the plaintiffs are also contesting the relevance of the national government's relief measures for A-bomb survivors.
In 2010, the Hiroshima prefectural and municipal governments asked the national government to expand the recognized black rain area by six times the current size after conducting an independent survey on A-bomb survivors. However, the national government concluded in 2012 that it would not expand the recognized area on the grounds that an expert panel to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare decided that there were "no scientific grounds" in the survey results.
Masaaki Takano, 77, head of the plaintiffs' group and chairman of an association of Hiroshima Prefecture black rain victims' groups, said, "The national government failed to recognize our longtime pleas and the prefectural and municipal governments' requests to expand the recognized area. We have no choice but to bring the case to court."
In comments released after the filing of the suit, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui and Hiroshima Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki said they understood that people who were not recognized by the law as A-bomb survivors felt compelled to opt for seeking legal judgment. In the meantime, they also said that they had no choice but to reject survivors' applications based on the current laws and government decrees, adding that they would respond to the matter properly after consulting with the national government.