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Lawsuit over 1945 Tokyo firebombing terminated by Supreme Court

Kyodo

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the dismissal of a discrimination lawsuit against the government that demanded an apology and damages over the U.S. firebombing of Tokyo, which claimed tens of thousands of lives in 1945, the top court said Thursday.

The five-justice first petty bench, presided over by Justice Tomoyuki Yokota, handed down the decision Wednesday.

The plaintiffs are a group of civilian victims and relatives of those who died in the air raids in the closing days of World War II.

The top court upheld rulings issued by the Tokyo district and high courts in 2009 and 2012, respectively.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers argued that the government had neglected its duty to protect civilians while providing support to servicemen and civilian employees of the Imperial armed forces, as well as their families.

They said the discriminatory treatment runs counter to the Constitution, which states: “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations.”

In December 2009, the Tokyo District Court dismissed the original suit filed by 131 plaintiffs who were demanding a government apology and ¥1.44 billion in damages. The court rejected their claim that the differing treatments discriminated against civilian victims of the air raids.

The district court also said that the matter should be settled through legislation, noting that the Diet has broad discretionary powers.

In April 2012, the Tokyo High Court turned down the plaintiffs’ appeal, saying there were many other war victims who received no support from the government.

After that, 77 of the plaintiffs took the case to the Supreme Court.

Mitsuru Kimori, 80, a deputy leader for the plaintiffs, said he cannot contain his anger at the top court’s decision and asserted that Japan’s judicial authorities ignore the socially vulnerable.

Fleets of B-29 bombers released incendiary bombs on Tokyo from March to May 1945, igniting a firestorm that devastated the capital and killed an estimated 100,000 people.