National / Crime & Legal

Japan's top court expected to uphold rejection of suit seeking recognition for atomic bomb survivors

Kyodo

The Supreme Court is expected to mostly uphold in December a lower court ruling that rejected a suit filed by 388 people who were in the vicinity of Nagasaki during the 1945 atomic bombing, and have been seeking official recognition as survivors.

Trial hearings are normally held when the top court reviews a high court ruling, but the Supreme Court’s First Petty Bench, led by Justice Katsuyuki Kizawa, said Thursday it will hand down its ruling on Dec. 18 following a hearing with representatives of just one of the plaintiffs who has already died.

The plaintiffs were within 12 kilometers of ground zero at the time of the U.S. attack on Aug. 9, 1945, but are not classified as survivors, known as hibakusha, because they were outside the oval-shaped, state-designated zone that extends around 7 km from east to west and around 12 km from north to south.

Rather than hibakusha, who are entitled to full compensation including medical assistance, they are instead defined as individuals “who experienced the bombing.”

In May last year, the Fukuoka High Court upheld a June 2012 district court ruling that stated acute symptoms claimed by the plaintiffs did not match those arising from radiation exposure.

Under a law to provide support to atomic bomb survivors, people are legally classified as hibakusha if they were in the state-designated zone at the time of the bombing, entered the city within two weeks of the attack, or were otherwise exposed to radiation from the attack.

All of the 388 plaintiffs said they fulfilled the third condition, but Thursday’s hearing concerned one of the male plaintiffs, since deceased, who had also claimed he met the second criterion.

His lawyers appealed the high court decision upholding a Nagasaki District Court ruling that stated the man’s lawsuit ended with his death.

At Thursday’s hearing, the man’s family demanded the state recognize him as an atomic bomb survivor, saying he entered the city of Nagasaki on the day of the bombing to search for his older brother before treating him at his parents’ home, which was located about 11 km from ground zero.