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World Conference against A & H Bombs


International Meeting 2015 World Conference against A and H Bombs - MIYAHARA Tetsuro

International Meeting 2015 World Conference against A and H Bombs

MIYAHARA Tetsuro, Attorney at LawGeneral Secretary, National Liaison of Counsels for Collective A-bomb Lawsuits

Exposure to A-bomb Radiation and Inhumanity of Nuclear Weapons

1.  International currents relating to the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons

Intervention of Disarmament Ambassador Kmentt

It is a well-known fact that H.E. Mr Kmentt, Austrian Ambassador for Disarmament (49 years old), was a key player in building up support for a “nuclear weapon ban convention” during the latest NPT Review Conference.  Austria reminds me of “The Sound of Music”, a musical film about the resistance against Nazi Germany’s military by the von Trapps, a proud Austrian family.

On June 26 this year, NHK satellite TV aired a very interesting documentary featuring Ambassador Kmentt, entitled “What Was behind the Breakdown” (Nuclear Weapons Ban Convention and a Diplomat).  At the opening, the narrator said, “We witnessed how ripples created by a diplomat grew into waves”.

Unfortunately, the NPT Review Conference failed to adopt a final document. Although the draft final document did not refer to “a convention banning nuclear weapons”, it included the following passage: “Effective measures (legal provisions): To recommend at the 70th United Nations’ General Assembly, to establish an open-ended working group to contribute to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons and to determine and develop effective measures including necessary legal provisions and other rules in view of complete implementation of Article 6 of the NPT” (from the Foreign Ministry’s webpage: “2015 NPT Review Conference Chair’s Summary for the final document”).  Asked about this passage, which was included in the final draft, the ambassador replied: “We achieved a significant result as we succeeded in changing the perception of nuclear weapons”.  He gave this comment because these words were included in the final draft in the context that all nuclear weapon states were unanimous in claiming that a step-by-step approach should be the most effective and tangible way to achieve nuclear disarmament, while insisting that more consideration should be given to the global security environment.

What is more, as many as 159 countries, including Japan, supported the “Joint Statement regarding the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons”.  Referring to this, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “Countries supporting the joint statement account for about 80 percent of UN members.  This fact must not be overlooked.”

Austria’s “Humanitarian Pledge” (renamed from “Austrian Pledge”) calling for the strengthening of the legal framework towards the elimination of nuclear weapons was supported by a growing number of states. The number of those states increased from 76 at the beginning to 107 at the end.  In explaining this development, Ambassador Kmentt said, “during the Conference period the support for the Pledge increased as people lost confidence in the discussions about nuclear disarmament”.

I was particularly impressed by footage shown at the end of the NHK documentary.  Soon after it became certain that the final document would not be adopted, Ambassador Kmentt was allowed to speak at the close of the Conference.  Guess what he said.  Instead of making a speech, he called out the names of all 107 countries and territories in alphabetical order beginning with Afghanistan and Argentine.

Ambassador Kmentt looked confident when he said that the mission is for the countries that have no nuclear weapons to appeal the absurdity of nuclear weapons. He also stressed that there are many obstacles but that we should not give up, as so many countries are supporting the proposal of a single country”.

(2)    Global Tide Denouncing the Humanitarian impact of Nuclear Weapons

It may be somewhat misleading to say that a call made by a single diplomat eventually gave rise to a new trend, because discussions had already occurred and a number of resolutions had been adopted in the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly on the inhumane effects of nuclear weapons.  And what I consider particularly important is a series of “international conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons” held first in Oslo, Norway, in March 2013, then in Nayarit, Mexico, in February 2014, and finally in Vienna Austria in December 2014.

The chair's summary of the Conference in Nayarit, Mexico, states: “awareness of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons is already changing the hearts and minds worldwide of those engaging in discussions concerning nuclear weapons. The broad-based and comprehensive discussions on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons should lead to the commitment of States and civil society to reach new international standards and norms, through a legally binding instrument”.

2.    What does the humanitarian impact of weapons mean?

(1) Introduction

People around the world came to share a common awareness of the inhumane impact of the use of nuclear weapons thanks to the great impact of Hibakusha’s testimonies about the actual damage and after-effects of the atomic bombings.  There have been numerous cases in which A-bomb survivors who, years after exposure to the A-bomb radiation, developed heart diseases or liver diseases, not to mention cancers and leukemia, even though they had barely thought of the effect of the atomic bombing before.  In dealing with this issue, we lawyers have for more than 10 years fought in support of over 400 Hibakusha in their court battles, along with Hibakusha and their supporters who are calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons.  I would like to think with you about the meaning of the damage and after-effects of the atomic bombings, about the struggle of the Hibakusha, and about why their calls capture the hearts of the people around the world.

(2)    Damage caused by the atomic bombing is not the devastation immediately after the dropping of the bombs

a. Testimonies of Hibakusha first remind us of the devastation immediately following the A-bomb detonation.  Survivors had their own houses destroyed, lost their relatives and neighbors and were deprived of their work. The city they lived in was destroyed.  Human connections between people, things that made people human, and everything that had been familiar to people were annihilated in an instant, taken by a tremendous force that had nothing to do with humanity.  Anybody can understand how cruel it was.  However, the Hibakusha’s sufferings are not limited to what they went through on that day.

b. Sense of guilt
There are countless poignant stories:  parents had to leave behind their children; children had to leave behind their parents; husbands had to leave their wives, or wives had to leave behind their husbands in a sea of flames.  Here is a story told by a Hibakusha: “I walked around desperately searching for my family.  I became heartless.  If I had remained merciful, I would not have been so coldhearted as to stomp over bodies.  What scared me most were the eyes of those who were burned black. It was as if they were calling for someone to rescue them.”

Dr. Robert J. Lifton, an eminent psychiatrist, wrote that Hibakusha have a strong “sense of guilt” for having survived at the sacrifice of others (“Death in Life--Survivors of Hiroshima”).

c. Obstruction of the Relief Operation by GHQ and the Policy of the Japanese Government
Dr. Marcel Junod on September 2nd received a telegram from Bilfinger whom he had sent to Hiroshima to investigate the city’s devastation.  It read:

"Visited Hiroshima thirtieth, conditions appalling stop city wiped out, eighty percent all hospitals destroyed or seriously damaged; inspected two emergency hospitals, conditions beyond description full stop effect of bomb mysteriously serious stop many victims, apparently recovering, suddenly suffer fatal relapse due to decomposition of white blood cells and other internal injuries, now dying in great numbers stop estimated still over one hundred thousand wounded in emergency hospitals located surroundings, sadly lacking bandaging materials, medicines stop please solemnly appeal to allied high command consider immediate air-drop relief action over centre city stop required: substantial quantities bandages, surgical pads, ointments for burns, sulphamides, also blood plasma and transfusion equipment stop immediate action highly desirable, also dispatch medical investigation commission stop report follows; confirm receipt" (“Doctor Junod,  An Unarmed Hero” by OSAKO Ichiro).  Dr. Junod on September 3rd went to the Supreme Command of the Allied Forces, carrying with him the telegram and the pictures depicting the catastrophic state of Hiroshima borrowed from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  He met with Brigadier General Sams in charge of the General Headquarters and requested to urgently send to Hiroshima foods and medicines for the victims.  Despite this, only 15 tons of relief stuffs were transported to Hiroshima on September 8th.

On the contrary, Brigadier General Thomas Farrell, assistant head for the Manhattan Project, on September 6th met foreign reporters at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo to announce that “all those who should die have died and as of early September, none is suffering from A-bomb radiation”.   However, as he spoke, over a hundred survivors were dying in intense agony and tens of thousands others were suffering from A-bomb disease in first-aid shelters in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (“The A-Bomb Crime” by SHIINA Masae).

The United States tried to black out the existence of suffering Hibakusha from society primarily because they needed to cover up the atrocity and inhumane nature of the atomic bomb, as it would provide the strongest evidence that the atomic bomb is a weapon of mass destruction prohibited by international law that indiscriminately inflicts unnecessary sufferings and pains upon people.   On September 19, GHQ issued the press code that lasted until the end of the occupation in April 1952.  As a result, no Japanese newspapers, with a very few exceptions, reported anything about the atomic bombing of the two cities.

In addition, the Japanese government did not provide any concrete and positive relief to the survivors who were suffering in a dismal situation that was like an inferno.

d.    “Do You Know Sadako?” and Atomic Bomb Disease
Have you ever heard the phrase “Do you know Sadako?”  Many Japanese have been asked this question when they traveled abroad?  But I wonder how many of them said “Yes, I do” and was able to explain about Sadako?

In Peace Park in Hiroshima stands a statue of warning.  It’s the bronze statue of Sadako (entitled “A-Bomb Child”) stretching her arms high towards the sky, holding a golden paper crane.  Many of you remember seeing it once.  A large number of folded paper cranes are offered to Sadako’s statue.

The novel “Sadako Will Leben” (Sadako Wants to Live), written by Karl Bruckner, a writer born in Vienna, has been translated in 22 countries around the world.  It is a long-seller that has been read by more than 2 million people.  I want as many people as possible to read the message of Bruckner.  It contributes to achieving a world without nuclear weapons.

Sadako was born as the first daughter of a barber.  She was two years old and was at home at about 1.7 km from the hypocenter when the atomic bomb detonated.  She was not injured or burned.  She grew up very healthy and was good at sports.  When she was a sixth grader (12 years old), she developed leukemia and was admitted to the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital.  She died after 8 months in the hospital.  She believed the legend that “your prayer will be heard if you fold one thousand paper cranes”.  She had made more than one thousand paper cranes when she died.  The paper crane she made is now the symbol of the Hibakusha movement.

In the book by Karl Bruckner, Sadako’s father is quoted as saying: “This is beyond human imagination.  My daughter looked much healthier than any other girls of her age.  Two or three days earlier, she had taken part in a bicycle race and overtook many other racers.  She was suddenly attacked with the disease.  It came after 10 carefree and happy years of joyful and playful childhood.  She was stricken and laid flat by a single flash.  After 10 years, the Pikadon (A-bomb) was looking for new victims again, as if the death of 210,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not enough”.

Sadako's story deeply touches our hearts and convinces us that the atomic bomb is something that even defiles a defenseless innocent child.

e. Suffering of the HibakushaIn his book, Bruckner wrote: “The 20th century science succeeded in inventing the atomic bomb but it has not been able to invent the means to heal the wounds it inflicts”.  The unhealed wound is the delayed radiation effect.  Lifton described it in harsher terms as “Carved seal of death”.

Hibakusha are terrified not only to see people around them who are apparently healthy dying suddenly, but also to witness the brutal deaths that come after they become weak and vomit blood.  A healthy man whom they see cheerfully riding a bicycle in the morning dies suddenly vomiting blood.

Many of you may have heard the word “A-bomb bura-bura disease”. Bura-bura disease is a symptom with an unknown cause. It includes physical conditions that make people feel tired easily or weary, and fall ill easily due to the mal-function of their immune system.  Due to this after-effect, many Hibakusha have difficulty getting a steady job and making ends meet.  Hibakusha would force themselves to work and fall ill.  They are thus inevitably driven into an inescapable plight.

What is more, Hibakusha are constantly tormented by feelings of guilt for those who were killed by the atomic bombing and are troubled with physical disorders caused by the bombing, loss of family members and discrimination in marriage and getting jobs.

Worse still, Japanese politics completely neglected the Hibakusha when they most needed public help and assistance in every aspect of their living.  The Hibakusha were therefore obliged to help themselves and try to meet their own needs.  It was a “decade of distress” under a U.S. occupation that covered up the damage by suppressing the media and speech and under the policy of successive Japanese governments’ that could be described as abandonment of the people”. (“Transforming A-bomb Experience into Philosophy” by ISHIDA Tadashi).  Imagine how human beings feel when they are placed in such a situation.

3. Conclusion ?Hibakusha rising from distress

(1) A considerable number of Hibakusha have lost the will to live on, continuously tortured by the fear of living without knowing when it ends, of the end that may come anytime and of A-bomb disease that may also develop anytime.   If there is no meaning to live today, there will be another meaningless 24 hours tomorrow.  One may say, “I have lived for nothing meaningful” or “There is no meaning to life.”  They began to suffer even deeper feelings of loneliness and despair.  They gave up trying to be connected to the society they once belonged to.  In fact, many Hibakusha thought: “I do not care what happens to society and to other people, and I do not care what they may do.  It does not concern me at all” (“Transforming A-bomb Experience into Philosophy” by ISHIDA Tadashi).

(2)    Hibakusha Rising to Fight

On August 10, 1956, after the 2nd World Conference against A and H Bombs, Hibakusha decided to rise up and establish the Japan Council of A and H Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo).  The founding aim of Nihon Hidankyo was to demand the abolition of nuclear weapons (to allow no more Hibakusha to be created).  It also demanded that the national government provide state compensation by enacting a Hibakuksha aid law based on acknowledgement of the state’s responsibility for the war.

Nihon Hidankyo has been actively engaged in actions. It has organized various campaigns and other initiatives such as nationwide petitions, representations to members of the Diet (parliament), political parties and the government, signature drives, nationwide caravans, rallies and sit-ins in front of the health ministry.  Hibakusha aid bills were introduced to the Diet several times and scrapped several times, but as a result of our campaigning, we have won three laws providing aid to Hibakusha.

In parallel with this movement, in April 1955, the Shimoda A-bomb lawsuit was filed with the Tokyo District Court. The plaintiffs claimed that the use of nuclear weapons is a violation of international law.  It was followed by individual lawsuits for A-bomb disease recognition filed by Ishida, Kuwahara, Matsuya and Konishi.  In addition to these, lawsuits were filed by Hibakusha living outside Japan such as the Son A-bomb lawsuit for state compensation. Hibakusha are fighting for justice about the delayed effects of exposure to atomic bomb radiation.  These are the concerted lawsuits in which we lawyers are fighting side by side with the Hibakusha for A-bomb disease recognition, in what we call “No More Hibakusha Lawsuits”.

Nihon Hidankyo is also very active internationally in the campaign to achieve the elimination of nuclear weapons.  It contributed to holding the three special sessions of the UN General Assembly on nuclear disarmament (SSD I, II and III) as well as to getting the advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) recognizing that the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons is against international law, especially humanitarian law.  The actions of the Hibakusha for international solidarity gradually made the names of Hiroshima and Nagasaki enter the common language around the world.

(3)    Transforming A-Bomb Experience into a Philosophy

ISHIDA Tadashi, Professor Emeritus at Hitotsubashi University, in a series of writings entitled “Transforming A-Bomb Experience into a Philosophy” presented the words of a Hibakusha who said: “What I, and only I, can do as a Hibakusha is to tell the world about the problems facing Hibakusha and to strive for the elimination of war and of nuclear weapons.  Ishida then wrote: “Only by resisting the overwhelmingly painful experience of the atomic bombing and confronting it courageously, by going through this fight or this resistance, will they be able to recover their dignity and pride as human beings and accept and assert themselves as they are”.

What Hibakusha want is not compassion or pity based on a negative stereotyped perception that Hibakusha are weak, tragic and miserable people.   Ms. Watanabe Chieko, a Hibakusha of Nagasaki, said: “I do not want to capitalize on my being an A-bomb survivor.  I do not want to live on the pity or compassion of others”.   She also said: “If you feel any compassion or pity for Hibakusha, please act with me” (from the same book).

In concluding, allow me to quote the words of Ms. Watanabe Chieko who was 16 years old at the time of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.  Here is what she said on the founding of Nihon Hidankyo.
“An American atomic bomb took away the springtime of my life. It deprived me forever of the most beautiful days of my life.  I tried many times to kill myself.  My sufferings lasted 10 long years. I am still bedridden, but I have begun to live a new life as a woman who believes in the future of humanity.  The atomic bombing tried to destroy me, but a movement for destroying the atom bomb has started.  Without the Movement against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, I would not have lived till this day” (From “The A-Bomb Crime” by Shiina Masae).

The call of the Hibakusha was born from their untold sufferings and it has spread.  They give their lives to this call.  Their movement is their resistance to the atomic bombs.  We are deeply touched by their call because we somehow feel that it is the starting point for all of us who live in this nuclear age.