HIROSHIMA – The Hiroshima District Court on Thursday rejected a lawsuit filed by three Japanese A-bomb survivors who live in Brazil and were seeking unpaid medical allowances from the Hiroshima Prefectural Government.
Presiding Judge Yoshinari Hashimoto said the five-year statute of limitations on the survivors’ right to claim their unpaid allowances had run out. He told them that they could no longer demand the roughly 2.9 million yen they were seeking in their lawsuit.
The judge said the prefectural government “only refused to pay the allowances to atomic bomb victims living overseas based on the central government’s legal interpretation, and did not block the plaintiffs from taking legal action” on the matter.
He did not touch upon the central government’s legal interpretation that denied A-bomb victims, or hibakusha, who lived abroad the right to receive such medical allowances.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they plan to appeal the ruling.
Shoji Mukai, 77, and two others moved to Brazil after being exposed to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima by the United States on Aug. 6, 1945. When they returned to Japan temporarily, they were able to receive the allowances.
But when they again left the country, their payments were terminated due to the state’s interpretation that people living abroad were ineligible.
They filed lawsuits with the Hiroshima District Court in July and December 2002, demanding payment of the missed allowances.
In March 2003, the central government reversed its policy on hibakusha medical allowances so that bomb victims living abroad would also get the money, and the prefecture subsequently paid the plaintiffs some of the allowances they were owed.
But it refused to pay about 2.9 million yen that covered the time earlier than the five years before the lawsuits were filed, saying that the statute of limitations on their right to claim the benefits had expired.
The plaintiffs had argued that their right to file such lawsuits had been obstructed by the central government’s legal interpretation of denying overseas hibakusha the allowances.
The prefecture said the legal interpretation at the time did not clearly violate laws regarding hibakusha assistance.
“I had hoped that the lawsuit would end with a good result, but this is regrettable,” Mukai said after the ruling. “Why did the government create laws that block assistance with statutes of limitations?”
Mukai, the eldest of eight children, was exposed to the bomb while working at a factory about 4 km southwest of ground zero. His parents were never found after the bombing, and the eight siblings became orphans in the flattened city.
Ten years later, at the age of 27, they moved to Brazil in the hope of a better life. Emigration to the South American country, which had stopped due to war, had resumed in 1952.
He returned to Japan in 1995 to get his hibakusha certificate, and began receiving allowances from June that year. But his payments were terminated when he returned to Brazil.
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