The Tokyo High Court ruled Thursday that the government should certify 29 of 30 plaintiffs as suffering from illness caused by radiation from the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, scrapping a lower court ruling that recognized just 21.
The decision marks the 18th consecutive defeat for the government in district and high courts concerning suits over certification of atomic bomb victims, placing it under further pressure to review its certification criteria once more.
“The screening rules are inappropriate in certifying atomic bomb-related diseases,” presiding Judge Tatsuki Inada said.
The court ruled that the link between diseases and radiation from the bombs should be decided after a comprehensive evaluation of the applicant, and that plaintiffs with liver failure and less than normal thyroid functions, which are excluded from the list of specific diseases the government will proactively certify, should be certified as atomic-bomb victims.
“I am very excited,” said Hidenori Yamamoto, who led the plaintiffs.
“I did not expect such a good ruling to be given to us,” he said. “There was one person who was not recognized, and I am determined to fight until the day all plaintiffs are given redress.”
In dismissing the one plaintiff’s claim, the court cited difficulty in establishing links between his illness and radiation exposure. It also rejected their demand for ¥3 million in damages per person.
“Already 14 plaintiffs have died in the course of the trial, and the government should understand its cruelty,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Shoji Takamizawa, said. “We waited six years. The damages should have been awarded.”
The Tokyo District Court ruled in March 2007 that 21 of the 30 plaintiffs were bomb sufferers but rejected claims for damages and recognition by nine plaintiffs, saying it was difficult to establish any link between their illnesses and their exposure to atomic bomb radiation.
The district court ruled that the government should not decide on certification by simply applying the criteria, but rather take a broader approach and look at how applicants were exposed to radiation, what immediate symptoms they developed, what they did, and how they led their lives afterward.
The government eased its criteria in April 2008, but about a third of the plaintiffs — including those who were already recognized by the court as sufferers of atomic bomb-related diseases — remain unrecognized.
The plaintiffs, who had cancer, cirrhosis or other diseases, initially filed suit with the district court seeking reversal of the government’s decision not to recognize them as A-bomb sufferers and rewards of ¥3 million in damages per person.
Certified victims are eligible for medical allowances worth ¥137,000 a month.
A total of about 300 people nationwide have filed suits seeking certification at 17 district courts, and 13 district courts and four high courts had ruled in favor of the plaintiffs prior to Thursday.
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