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Court orders state compensation to Hibakusha

The Hiroshima District Court on March 18 ruled that it is illegal for the government to turn down five plaintiffs' applications to recognize them as atomic bomb survivors (Hibakusha) with A-bomb-related diseases and ordered the state to pay 990,000 yen to three of the five plaintiffs.

It is the first time that a court has ordered the state to pay compensation to plaintiffs for the rejection of applications for recognition as Hibakusha with atomic bomb diseases.

The ruling marked the 15th consecutive victory for Hibakusha.

In the lawsuit, 23 Hibakusha, including 4 who have died since the lawsuit was initiated, living in Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures demanded that the government withdraw its rejection of recognition of Hibakusha with illnesses caused by exposure to atomic bomb radiation in 1945 and pay three million yen to each plaintiff in compensation.

At a news conference following the ruling, the chief lawyer for the plaintiffs, Sasaki Takeya, stated, "The court order that demands the state to pay compensation will have a significant impact on future rulings. It is an epoch-making ruling."

On the same day, plaintiffs and their lawyers in similar lawsuits throughout Japan held a news conference at the Health Ministry.

Yasuhara Yukihiko, vice-chair of the National Liaison Council of Lawyers Involved in the Hibakusha Lawsuits, stated that a path to achieve an overall settlement has been opened by the latest ruling and the March 17 Tokyo District Court, which called on the government to revise its standards for certifying Hibakusha's illnesses as A-bomb related.

Tanaka Terumi, secretary general of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo), said that they will strongly demand that the government make a decision by the end of March. The organization will also strive to increase the movement to influence the Tokyo High Court's ruling scheduled for May.

On the same day at the House of Councilors Budget Committee meeting, Japanese Communist Party representative Koike Akira mentioned the Hiroshima's ruling and called on the government to revise its standards in accordance with actual A-bomb damages and try to reach an overall settlement of all lawsuits.

- Akahata March 19, 2009

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