Present criteria for recognition of A-bomb illnesses are too strict--Akahata editorial, July 17

"An atomic bomb took my health away and crippled me for life!" This cry represents the cause of 76 Hibakusha who together requested that the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry recognize the links between their diseases and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They say that if rejected, they will go to court.

They say that the present criteria for the recognition of Hibakusha as having diseases caused by atomic bombings are too strict and do not reflect the real conditions of Hibakusha so are calling for a change away from the cold-hearted administration for Hibakusha.

More than 70% of applications turned down

Fifty-seven years after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there are about 290,000 A-bomb survivors who are Hibakusha certificate holders. Many of them have A-bomb-related health problems, including cancer.

However, only 2,000, or under one percent of all Hibakusha, are officially certified as Hibakusha with A-bomb diseases.

Liberal Democratic Party governments have always tried to minimize the damage of the A-bombings. Failing to look at the damage of the atomic bombing in its all aspects, namely from blasts, heat, and radiation, the government recognizes only those who were exposed to radiation near ground-zero as Hibakusha with A-bomb diseases. The government excludes those Hibakusha who were outside the radius of 2km from the hypocenter or who entered Hiroshima or Nagasaki after the atomic bombings.

In its ruling on the lawsuit filed by Matsuya Hideko over government recognition of Hibakusha with A-bomb diseases in July 2000, the Supreme Court criticized the government's administration for Hibakusha as irrelevant. Similar criticisms came from the Osaka High Court in its November 2000 ruling on the Kyoto Hibakusha lawsuit. Notwithstanding the reproaches, the government has not changed its administration for Hibakusha, which is impermissible.

The Supreme Court's criticism was aimed at the government's method of estimating the quantity of radiation exposure, which was used as the rationale to turn down Hibakusha's applications for recognition of their diseases as being caused by the atomic bombing. The Court raised doubts about the mechanical application of the government method because it has unclear aspects and needs review.

However, clinging to this method, the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry adopted new criteria called "causal probability" to determine that the probability of having diseases such as cancer in relation to the Hibakusha's age and the quantity of radiation exposure.

The approval ratio shows that the new criteria are used to reject applications.

In 2001, 484 out of 657 applications were rejected. The rate of approval dropped from 54 percent in 2000, to 26 percent in 2001.

Applicants include many who have suffered from various kinds of diseases and disorders over the last 57 years. This is a human rights problem. Such a flagrant violation of human rights must not be ignored. The present criteria for recognition need to be reviewed and actual conditions of injuries be grasped so that priority will be put on the relief of survivors.

The Japan Confederation of A and H Bombs Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo) demands that the government drastically improve the certification system by 1. recognizing all those who are suspected of having illnesses caused by atomic-bomb radiation as Hibakusha with A-bomb diseases; 2. respecting the opinions of applicants' doctors; 3. inviting doctors, lawyers, and atomic bomb survivors recommended by survivor organizations to the ministry's subcommittee on medical care for atomic-bomb radiation victims; 4. Speeding up the examination process of applications.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Sakaguchi told the 76 survivors in the group application that he has no intention of changing the certification standards. This represents the cold-blooded attitude of the Koizumi Cabinet toward atomic-bomb survivors.

Such a cold policy on atomic-bomb survivors is combined with the government dependence on the U.S. nuclear strategy. Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuda Yasuo said that the Three Non-Nuclear Principles can be changed and Prime Minister Koizumi said that he understands the U.S. nuclear strategy, which includes striking non-nuclear weapons states with nuclear weapons, as one of the options available to the United States. Atomic-bomb survivors are very angry at such a government position.

Government should relieve survivors

The government should stop delaying issuing certificates because atomic-bomb survivors are too old to continue their court struggles. Such a cold-blooded policy must be changed. As the government of the atomic-bombed country, Japan's government should take a lead in the movement to eliminate nuclear weapons. (end)