NAGASAKI – The Nagasaki District Court on Wednesday ordered the government to pay a medical stipend to a Japanese survivor of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki whose payments were cut while he was living overseas.
It is the first time that a hibakusha who has moved overseas has won a ruling granting unpaid medical stipends during the absence.
Masahito Hirose, 73, was awarded 330,000 yen, the full amount he was seeking from the national government and city of Nagasaki for the 10 months he lived in China beginning in October 1994.
The court ruled that it is the national government’s responsibility and not that of local governments to pay stipends to hibakusha.
The court rejected the government’s claim that the plaintiff’s demand was moot because the statute of limitations on financial claims under the local autonomy and account laws had run out.
“The claim over the statute of limitations is an abuse of the government’s right, because the exercise of the overseas survivors’ right (to the stipends) had been obstructed,” presiding Judge Masanori Kawakubo ruled.
Hirose began receiving medical stipends in 1973 under the Atomic Bomb Victims Relief Law, under which A-bomb survivors are provided financial assistance to meet health-care needs.
The government cut his stipends while he was working in China as a language teacher.
Hirose filed a suit with the court in September 2001 to help survivors living in South Korea get unpaid medical stipends, saying: “Atomic bombing survivors are atomic bombing survivors wherever they are. It’s unreasonable for them to be treated differently depending on where they live.”
In recent rulings, courts have awarded medical stipends to Korean A-bomb survivors who had been denied them since leaving Japan.
The Health, Welfare and Labor Ministry now says it will provide medical stipends to survivors living abroad and pay unpaid stipends for the past five years.
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