Long-waited Justice Rendered to A-bomb Victims

It is a victory for all 9 Hibakusha, survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On May 12, the Osaka District Court ruled in favor of the survivors and ordered the defendant, the Government of Japan, to annul its decisions that turned down the Hibakusha’s applications for A-bomb disease recognition. It is the first ruling of such collective lawsuits filed by the Hibakusha against the Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare and the Government of Japan now being heard in 13 district courts across Japan. (This case was later appealed to Osaka High Court on May 22.)

Relief Extended to the Distally Exposed and Entrant Hibakusha

“It is a landmark decision which orders the State to reverse its decisions made against the applications for A-bomb disease recognition for all of the 9 plaintiffs, including the 4 who were bombed at a long distance from ground zero and who entered the city after the explosion”?says the statement issued by a doctors’ group of the Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions (MIN-IREN), which have helped the Hibakusha in their pursuit of legal justice. The doctors “highly acclaim” the decision “for it laid weight on the prolonged tormenting poor health of the Hibakusha, which will help the extension of recognition coverage onto non-cancer illnesses such as circulatory disease (cardiac disorder and stroke), delayed cataract and hypothyreosis.”

Gochi Hideo, director of the East Kobe clinic, who served as a witness in the trial says, “My focus in testifying in the court was to bring our medical findings, stated in the Statement of the Medical Panel of MIN-IREN, home to the judges.” He is a member of the doctors supporting group in this part of the country, Kinki region.

For Saving Ailing Hibakusha

One of the plaintiffs is Ms. Kimura Tamiko, 69 years old. “I decided to speak out and join the lawsuit. My doctor, Kobayashi Eichi at Konohana Clinic of Osaka MIN-IREN encouraged me to do so. I hadn’t told anyone, not even my family, that I was a Hibakusha until I contracted stomach cancer. It wasn’t an easy thing to bring yourself to the courtroom for 17 times when you have cancer, but I made it through because my family understood that I needed to do this. I truly hope that the Government understands our plight and accept the ruling so that as many Hibakusha as possible can be saved.”

Saeki Toshiaki, 73, is another plaintiff. He spoke to us by means of writing. “I was exposed to the bombing in Hiroshima city when I was 12 years old. I was badly burned and I have keloid scar but I managed to live to this day. I lost my voice 7 years ago when I removed a tumor from the larynx. We are all getting very old and the state should not make us suffer any more, any longer.”

Working for the Hibakusha’s Collective Lawsuits at Osaka District Court
Dr. Gochi Hideo
Counsel of Physicians in support of Hibakusha lawsuit, Kinki region

It is a resounding victory for the Hibakusha. The 592-page ruling of the Osaka District Court condemns the state’s stiffly uniformed approach in examining the Hibakusha’s physical conditions and states the examination should lay weight on the plaintiffs’ real conditions: their personal and medical history and the circumstances they were under at the time of the bombing.

“If we are to ever understand the real effects?diseases, agony and all?of the atomic bombings to mankind, that is only possible when we watch over the Hibakusha and record their mental and physical conditions and sufferings as they are. The truth lies in the words and the bodies of the victims themselves.” This is what I said at the court and I am happy to see that the ruling reflected on it.

The ruling succinctly points out the limitations of modern science in fully explaining the effects of the A-bomb destruction and rejects the claimed usefulness of the “probability of causation”, presently employed to screen Hibakusha’s applications, in determining unique conditions of different individuals. It is truly a gratifying and excellent decision.

Looking back, this concerted Hibakusha lawsuits of Kinki Region drew national attention, whether you like it or not, for they were to be the first such cases to de ruled on. Burden was greater for being the first, and we knew it was going to be tough.

Of the 9 plaintiffs, 4 are distant and entrant Hibakusha. Four of them have cancer, which has strong relation to radiation, but the diseases of the others are arteriosclerotic disease, anemia and cataract, cases that are difficult to provide evidence for A-bomb causation.

The plaintiffs are not people who are handpicked for the purpose of winning a legal case. It is solely their will that have brought them here and it is nobody but they who achieved the landmark ruling.

They have one thing in common: they were in their adolescence at the time of the bombing. Except one plaintiff who was 8, all of them were from 12 to 20 years old, a pretty sensitive time of your life to go through the kind of horror as the atomic bombing. These are the people who were there on the ground to see and feel the explosion, the heat, the blast and the radiation, which were seared onto their minds and bodies and who have literally battled for their life until this day.

As they spoke in their own words of the nature of the atomic bombs and shared their experiences among themselves, they were speaking in one voice: “There is nothing more horrible and inhumane than the atomic weapons; we must not let anyone else suffer what we have suffered, and the State must understand that there is nothing more precious than peace”. I believe their cry touched the soul of the judges.

“Let us not rancor against the dark but lit a candle instead”?As one of my favorite sayings goes, Hibakusha kept lighting their delicate but illuminative candles one by one: they are the candles of the Nagasaki Matsuya Lawsuit and of the lawsuits in Kyoto and Tokyo, which are now joined by the 9 candles at once. They are indeed beacon of hope, one that will shed light to the human morality. I believe that the beacon will spread like a wildfire, one day compelling the government to finally act for the true relief and justice for all Hibakusha. And when that day comes, which I believe is not so distant future, these 9 brave men and women will be honored once again for the true and final victory.