Acceptance of national government’s proposed “black rain” guidelines

Commentary: Government needs to explain reasoning for uncompromising stance on disease requirement

by Junji Akechi, Staff Writer

The Hiroshima Prefectural and City governments have accepted the national government’s proposal for revised guidelines that will expand the scope of relief provided to “black rain” victims. However, the obstacle of A-bomb survivor recognition being limited to those who have developed 11 diseases is set to remain in place. The final and binding ruling by the Hiroshima High Court in a recent black rain lawsuit acknowledging that all plaintiffs in the case be recognized as A-bomb survivors without any disease requirement has revealed a gap between the court’s ruling and the government’s stance. As the black rain victims age, the prefecture and city appear to have made a “pragmatic” decision to accept the proposal, based on the assumption that, in effect, a majority of such victims will be provided relief with the government’s revised guidelines.

The proposed guidelines offer recognition to those who had been outside the current designated area for relief (heavy rain area) as being A-bomb survivors when the possibility they were exposed to black rain cannot be denied. For many years, the prefecture and city have called for expansion of the designated area for relief by pointing to their own survey results concerning areas in which black rain fell. The judicial ruling finally opened the way for acceptance of their call for expanded relief.

At the same time, the national government did not offer compromise about the issue under debate, namely the disease requirement for A-bomb survivor recognition. The high court’s ruling in July did not specify occurrence of specific diseases as a requirement for recognition. A statement made by then Prime Minister Suga, released when the government decided not to appeal the high court ruling, stressed the idea that certain aspects of the ruling were unacceptable based on the argument that, “There remain important issues from a legal perspective.” Why is the national government insisting on the disease requirement? It has a responsibility to explain to the public its reasoning about this matter.

The factor that prompted the prefecture and city to change their stance and accept the revised guidelines was that the national government also included acceptance of a history of cataract surgery as a condition for recognition. Cataracts are a disease that many people suffer from as they age. Assuming that the proposed revision will provide relief to a majority of those who apply for Atomic Bomb Survivor’s Certificates due to their exposure to black rain, the two local governments shifted their stance to prioritize the provision of timely relief rather than risk failing to reach an agreement.

Relief for black rain victims is the immediate challenge. Many applicants for the certificate are certain to welcome the decision made by the prefecture and the city because it will lead to expansion of relief. However, the acceptance smacks of “a compromise” with the Japanese government, which is hoping to maintain the disease requirement, thereby leaving some uncertainty surrounding the decision.

(Originally published on December 25, 2021)