A Japanese high court ruled Wednesday that 84 people in Hiroshima Prefecture were eligible for state health benefits even though they had been exposed to radioactive “dark rains” as a result of the 1945 US atomic bombing outside of an area currently recognized by the government.
Upholding a lower court ruling last year, the Hiroshima High Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, saying they should receive the same benefits accorded to atomic bomb survivors who were in the area. where the state recognized the black rain.
The plaintiffs attended the Hiroshima High Court on July 14, 2021 to hear a decision on their case seeking state health care benefits for exposure to radioactive “black rain” after the US atomic bombing. Hiroshima in 1945. (Kyodo)
The High Court’s ruling is expected to impact the central government’s ongoing review of areas where black rains have fallen and its impact on health.
Pursuant to a Hiroshima District Court ruling in July last year, the High Court recognized the 84 plaintiffs, including the deceased, as hibakusha or atomic bombing survivors and ordered prefectural authorities and Hiroshima City Council to accept their requests for public health care. benefits.
For the recognition of the plaintiffs as victims of the atomic bomb, “it suffices to prove that the possibility of damage to their health due to the radiation of the atomic bomb cannot be excluded”, declared the presiding judge Kazuto Nishii.
The High Court said radioactive rains fell in a wider area beyond the designated area and the plaintiffs are hibakusha because they are likely to have suffered health damage from their radiation exposure.
Masaaki Takano (C), who leads the plaintiffs, and others celebrate a ruling in their favor in Hiroshima High Court on July 14, 2021. (Kyodo)
The decision accepted the complainants’ assertion that there was also a possibility of internal radiation exposure from ingestion of contaminated food and well water.
The defendants had argued that there was no scientific evidence of nuclear fallout in the area where the plaintiffs resided. Even if they were exposed to radiation, its influence on their health would be insignificant, the defendants said.
When a lawyer raised a banner outside the courthouse declaring a “total victory” in the trial, supporters of the plaintiffs awaiting trial exploded with joy.
“I express my sincere gratitude,” said Masaaki Takano, the 83-year-old chief plaintiff. He added that the plaintiffs will ask the state, prefecture and city of Hiroshima not to appeal the decision.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a press conference that the central government will decide how to proceed after discussing its response with governments in Hiroshima, as well as ministries and agencies. concerned.
Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui said, “We would like to discuss the matter with the prefecture and the health ministry, keeping in mind the city’s desire to expand the black rains area.
Residents of the state-designated Black Rain Zone are eligible to receive free health checks and atomic bomb survivor certificates entitling them to medical benefits in case they develop 11 specific diseases caused by radiation .
But the plaintiffs’ claims for health care benefits for atomic bomb survivors filed with the prefecture and the city of Hiroshima between 2015 and 2018 were rejected because they resided outside the area, prompting them to sue. governments to seek the quashing of decisions.
Based on previous research, the central government designated an oval-shaped area measuring 19 kilometers long and 11 km wide extending northwest of the hypocenter of the atomic bombardment of August 6, 1945, as the area where the black rain fell for an hour. or more.
Local governments, as well as the health ministry appealed the district court’s decision last August, insisting that “highly scientific evidence” was needed to determine whether the plaintiffs were in an affected environment. by radiation, which is one of the conditions for their recognition as survivors of the atomic bomb.
Last November, the Ministry of Health launched an expert review group to study areas where black rain fell after local governments requested the extension of the recognized black rain zone on the basis of the decision of the district court.
The panel, which has met five times so far, has decided to conduct climate simulations and a ground survey in addition to analyzing the logs of atomic bomb survivors, but it has yet to arrive. to a conclusion.
The main government spokesperson said he expects the health ministry to work quickly on the review as those affected age and their memories fade, making the scientific study of the area of black rains even more difficult.
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