International Meeting
2003 World Conference against A & H Bombs

Sasaki Takeya
Hiroshima A-bomb Disease Lawsuit
Lawyers team head

For a victory of A-bomb lawsuit

1.On June 12, we started a lawsuit in the Hiroshima District Court, demanding that the government officially recognize A-bomb survivors as Hibakusha with diseases caused by the A-bomb. Our struggle has begun. This is also a struggle for Hibakusha, victims of the war of aggression conducted by Japan. We will question the responsibility of Japan for refusing to accept the Potsdam Declaration for an early conclusion of the war though there was no chance left for Japan. The atomic bombing was a consequence of this.

Has Japan lost the noble spirit that it had when the Constitution was young and which is expressed in the preamble to the Constitution? Has this country lost all consciousness of its responsibility for the war? We in court will challenge the government to see if it has a conscience or any sense of responsibility for the war.

Our goal is to provide assistance to the Hibakusha and to lead an early victory within two years for the plaintiffs to be officially recognized as Hibakusha with A-bomb diseases. However, we have many hurdles to overcome.

2. The Hibakusha Aid Law requires the following conditions for Hibakusha to receive Hibakusha benefits: those who apply for benefits must be Hibakusha who actually need medical treatment; illnesses or injuries that actually need medical treatment must have been caused by A-bomb radiation; or illnesses or injuries that actually need medical treatment other than radiation induced conditions must be attributable to casualties caused by the A-bomb and, further, the ability to recover must have been affected by the radiation. A fixed benefit is available to people with such illness or injuries.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is applying a factor-and-probability method to determine whether Hibakusha's illnesses were caused by the A-bomb. It calculates the probability of A-bomb symptoms by the amount of how much radiation the Hibakusha was exposed to and how far the Hibakusha was from the bombing site. The government sets standards for each illness according to the Hibakusha's sex, the amount of radiation and the distance. The Hibakusha must clear these standards.

The government has determined that the plaintiffs' illnesses are not attributable to the A-bomb radiation without showing any specific reason why. So we must make efforts to disprove the factor-and probability method.

The basis for this method is surveys of accidents at nuclear power plants in the United States. However, there is a big difference between nuclear accidents and exposure to A-bomb radiation. In the Nagasaki case, plaintiff Matsuya Hideko broke through the factor-and-probability method and won a victory. A Japan-U.S. joint examination showed that hair loss occurred at a distance from ground zero which, according to the factor-and-probability method, should not have produced such an effect. In so doing, they proved that the factor-and-probability method is unreliable.

A-bomb radiation exposure means exposures to radioactive substance in a fireball, radioactive fallout such as particles, soot, and rain, and internal exposure via radioactive water and food. So it is very different from nuclear accidents. Our goal in court is to reveal these differences and break the basis of the factor-and-probability method.

3. The government, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (ABCC) keep the documents related to the radiation damage. So, except for the fact that Hibakusha are suffering from A-bomb diseases and were definitely exposed to radiation, Hibakusha do not know anything about their exposure.

In court, we will call for a full-disclosure of the related documents that the government and the ABCC have. We will make efforts to present the reality of governmental measures to deal with Hibakusha and will expose cases where different Hibakusha were exposed to radiation in exactly the same circumstances, but while some had their claims accepted, others were rejected. We will also fight the sloppiness of the factor-and-probability method and the contradictions in its application.

The ABCC was established for military purposes. We will try to reveal the absurdity of ABCC's studies on residual radiation and epidemiology. (When campaign differences between Hibakusha and non-Hibakusha the ABCC irrationally include Hibakusha among the non-Hibakusha.) We will point out the limitations of ABCC's epidemiological study method and press the government to take responsibility for having neglected to deal with Hibakusha problems.

4. To make the judge understand the reality of the Hibakushas' situation, we will submit the best possible evidence, such as films just after the bombing, photographs, books, and testimonies. Before that, it is necessary to obtain a list and consider which items should be presented to the court.

We must prove the inseparability between Hibakusha's illnesses and the A-bomb and the high probability that their illnesses were caused by the A-bomb. To this end, we are interviewing the plaintiffs about the circumstances surrounding their exposure to radiation, their symptoms, their life history, the history of their diseases (past medical treatments), and the situation of their family members' illnesses and radiation exposure. Cooperation from their doctors is also essential.

We have to check all this evidence from the past 58 years since the end of the war, and put it in order.

Again, to gain official recognition as Hibakusha with illnesses related to the A-bomb, we must prove that each illness of each plaintiff was caused by radiation exposure. Such illnesses appear in non-Hibakusha as well, so we have to present to the court why their illnesses show up now at this time. (The difficulties will be different from the case of subacute myelo-optico-neuropathy (SMON) symptom.) Each plaintiff or each internal organ has different sensitivity to radiation. A combination of facts leads to symptoms. Each plaintiff has lived in a different environment for a long time in the post-war period. They may have been exposed to x-ray radiation or various types of free radical, so we cannot easily go back to the time of 1945 across-the-board. Experimental proof is required following an epidemiological approach but we do not have the basic data for this.

Progress in medical science has discovered DNA analysis and the mechanism by which cataracts and cancers develop. However, progress in solving the correlation between radiation and illnesses is in inverse proportion to the mounting movement in opposition to the use of nuclear weapons and the call for the abolition of such weapons. Despite this, the Supreme Court required plaintiffs to prove that there is a high probability of a correlation between radiation and their illnesses. Therefore, we presume our struggle will take a long time to achieve victory. For example, the Matsuya Lawsuit lasted for 13 years, the Kyoto Lawsuit took 14 years, and the Ishida Lawsuit continued for three years. Each lawsuit was filed by a single Hibakusha and fought with great effort from scholars, doctors, lawyers and supporters' organizations.

The Hiroshima A-bomb Lawsuit is filed by twenty-nine plaintiffs plus some ten additional people. It may meet more difficulties than the previous lawsuits due to its size. But we must win the suit to get relief for all Hibakusha and to develop anti-nuclear weapons activity.

5. The factor-and-probability method is based on the amount of radiation that Hibakusha are exposed to. In this Hiroshima A-bomb Lawsuit, plaintiffs include Hibakusha who entered Hiroshima City after the A-bombing and Hibakusha who were exposed to radiation at quite a distance from ground zero. So the amount of radiation they were exposed to may be lower. This will be one of the main discussions in court.

However, there is almost no documentation concerning Hibakusha who entered the city after the A-bombing.

Under such circumstances, what is needed for us is to unravel a matter, which the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the ABCC have not ever studied, relating to the exposure to low-level radiation or to residual radiation.

At the same time, it will be challenging for us to find Hibakusha who entered the city after the bombing or who were 2.5 kilometers or 3 kilometers away from ground zero, then conduct interviews with them, analyze their experiences, and compile examples of their acute symptoms.

6. To draw an early victory, we will cooperate with other lawyers' teams in Tokyo, Chiba, Nagoya, Osaka, Nagasaki and Kumamoto to exchange achievements and move forward together.

Actively utilizing the achievements of the past court struggles concerning A-bomb illnesses, we will make our utmost efforts for the success of the lawsuit.

Thirty lawyers are representing plaintiffs in the Hiroshima A-bomb Lawsuit. We, lawyers from the A-bombed city of Hiroshima, are now learning the reality of the after-effects of the A-bomb, of war and peace, of the lack of governmental measures to deal with Hibakusha, and of how to struggle in lawsuits against the government. Here again, we express our determination to faithfully respond to the Hibakusha. Thank you.