Nationwide group of plaintiffs who have filed lawsuits over A-bomb disease certification now forming

by Jumpei Fujimura, Staff Writer

On November 18, it was learned that A-bomb survivors who have filed lawsuits in different districts over the A-bomb disease certification system will form a nationwide group of plaintiffs. Although the criteria to certify A-bomb diseases was relaxed in 2008, their applications for certification were rejected. The number of plaintiffs set to join this group is expected to be approximately 100, including members of bereaved families. As the deliberations by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare’s special commission to review the A-bomb disease certification system are now entering their final phase, the plaintiffs will jointly demand that the national government do a drastic overhaul of the system.

The group of plaintiffs will be composed of A-bomb survivors and members of bereaved families who have filed lawsuits at five district courts, in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo, Osaka, and Kumamoto. The group, tentatively called “No More Hibakusha Nationwide Group of Plaintiffs,” will hold a press conference in Tokyo on December 3. The secretariat will be located at “Toyukai,” an A-bomb survivors’ association in Tokyo.

According to Toyukai and other sources, the plaintiffs have been closely watching the discussions of the Ministry’s commission and have determined that even if they win individual lawsuits, they cannot expect major improvements in the certification system. While proceeding with their individual cases, they will jointly approach the national government to demand improvements and urge Diet members to make political moves to thoroughly revise the system.

Another objective of the group is to promote exchanges among members so that they can support and encourage one other.

The commission formed by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare began its discussions to review the A-bomb disease certification system in December 2010. It is likely that the final report it produces, to be submitted by the end of this year, will mainly propose amendments to the existing system, such as breaking down the certification criteria for each illness and for the conditions in which the survivors were exposed to the atomic bombings.

However, the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo) has been calling for the current system to be abolished and replaced with a new system which will provide allowances in line with a survivors’ symptoms.


A-bomb disease certification system
After losing a series of class action lawsuits over the certification of A-bomb diseases, the Japanese government introduced the current criteria in April 2008. Applicants suffering from any of seven designated diseases, including cancer and leukemia, are promptly certified under such conditions as having been exposed to the atomic bombings within about 3.5 kilometers from the hypocenter; or entering within two kilometers from the hypocenter within about 100 hours after the bombings. Other applicants are certified after their eligibility is examined by taking all relevant factors into consideration. Responding to Nihon Hidankyo’s complaint over the gap between government certifications and the judicial rulings, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare established a special commission of experts in December 2010 to deliberate on this matter.

(Originally published on November 19, 2013)