International Meeting
2000 World Conference against A & H Bombs

Nakamura Terumi
Plaintiff Council, Nagasaki A-Bomb Matsuya Lawsuit

1. Supreme Court dismisses government's final appeal
On July 18 this year, the Supreme Court dismissed the final appeal of the government against the lower courts' decision on the Nagasaki A-Bomb Matsuya Lawsuit. The ruling finalized the victory of Ms. Matsuya Hideko, the plaintiff of the case. After learning the news, she told her colleagues and friends who had gathered to celebrate that "this is a victory of all the Hibakusha". Her smile was courageous and affectionate for a person who had been through a long and hard ordeal.

2. Summary
2-1. At 11:02 on August 8, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. When it exploded, Matsuya Hideko (3 years and 5 months old) was on the veranda of her house, which was 2.45 km away from the epicenter, in Inasamachi of Nagasaki City. She was hit hard on the vertex of the left side of her head by a tile that was blown off. It caused a depression in and partial defect of the skull. The injury, caused temporary unconsciousness and loss of motor function of her lower and upper limbs, but it was only treated with mercurochrome. For a few days she stayed home, then she started to suffer from diarrhea and gradual loss of hair. She remained bedridden for a long time and lost more hair. Her wound did not heal and puss and secretion kept running out of it like a fountain. It wasn't until 2 and a half years later that the wound was more or less cured. She was diagnosed as having encephalatrophy and external head injury. Since then she has suffered from right side paralysis and bending contracture of the right-elbow among many disorders.

2-2. In 1977 and 1987, Hideko applied to the Japanese government to have her injuries officially recognized as caused by the atomic bombing. The government rejected both of the applications. Hideko's mother was greatly concerned about her daughter's future. She and Hideko decided to file a lawsuit against the government in pursuit of the revocation of the rejection of her application. A number of other Hibakusha and non-Hibakusha supported her lone struggle. On May 26, 1993, a district court ruled in favor of Hideko's case. The government, however, was cruel enough to appeal the case to the Fukuoka High Court.

At the court hearing Hideko told the judges, "I had a dream one day. I was walking smart in high heels. Then I woke up. The pain in my head and legs brought me back to reality." Her appeal was powerful enough to move the court. On June 27, 1997, Hideko won her case at the Fukuoka High Court. But here again the government unreasonably filed a final appeal to the Supreme Court.

The group of supporters of Hideko's case soon grew into a nation-wide network. A signature campaign calling for the rejection of the state's final appeal reached over 530,000 in two and a half years. The early victory of the Matsuya case in the Supreme Court was made possible by the broad support generated by this networking.

3. Supreme Court ruling
3-1. Threshold and DS 86
The government's case was based on the "threshold theory" and the DS 86 (Dosimetry System of 1986). The Supreme Court ruling rejected the government's argument for the following reasons:
a) DS 86 is not yet fully explained and it continues to be the subject of reconsideration; and
b) Mechanical application of the DS 86 and the threshold theory cannot explain radiation diseases such as depilation (hair loss) which occurred in people who were outside 2 kilometers from the epicenter of the explosion (the long-distance Hibakusha) at the time of the bombing.

These findings support the case that the plaintiff had long argued for. They have great significance, because it is now no longer acceptable to exclude the long-distance Hibakusha from the recognition available through the state Hibakusha administration.

3-2. Court's ruling on Matsuya's a-bomb induced diseases
In recognizing that Matsuya's illnesses were caused by the bombing, in the light of its consideration of the threshold theory and the DS86( 3-1), the Court made 2 points:
a) The injury by the roof tile does not fully explain Matsuya's brain damage; and
b) Matsuya suffered from depilation (a classic symptom of acute radiation damage).

Thus, the Court ruled that although Matsuya's brain damage was originally caused by being hit by the roof tile, it could be recognized as having developed into a serious condition as a result of radiation, or of degradation of her healing power due to radiation.

Especially in the light of 3-2 b), the question of whether or not acute radiation symptom appeared after exposure to the bomb has now become very significant. Given the fact that many of the long-distance Hibakusha contracted acute radiation injuries, the Supreme Court ruling has opened a door to state a-bomb disease recognition for those Hibakusha who have hitherto been denied recognition because of their distance from the epicenter at the time of the bombing.

4. State A-bomb recognition
As of March 2000, the number of Hibakusha is approximately 297,000, of which sonly 2,116 or 0.7% of the entire Hibakusha are officially recognized as having a-bomb induced diseases. This number shows that it is the threshold theory and the DS 86 that are hindering recognition for the Hibakusha.

5. Effect of the ruling
5-1. On July 26 this year, Nagasaki City filed a request to the Ministry of Health and Welfare for the revision of the definition of the A-bombed area. The Supreme Court's ruling on the Matsuya case has now provided considerable authenticity and rationale for this request.

5-2. Three lawsuits on the A-bomb disease recognition are now pending in the courts. Matsuya strongly hopes that the ruling will help open the eyes of the judges to the actual condition of the Hibakusha and deepen the understanding and widen the circle of support for those cases.

Go back to the Conference Menu es to the actual condition of the Hibakusha and deepen the understanding and widen the circle of support for those cases.

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