The five-year struggle of dozens of Japanese people, who lived through the US atomic bombing but were denied social benefits for decades, has ended victoriously after they were officially recognized as nuclear bombing survivors.
A district court in Hiroshima finally ruled in favor of a group of radioactive rain victims, who have been fighting for their rights since 2015.
The plaintiffs demanded to be given the same rights and privileges as those who were directly affected by the explosion of the American “Little Boy” nuclear device in the final days of World War II.
The plaintiffs lived in areas outside Hiroshima’s boundaries, but were affected by ‘black rain’ radioactive fallouts, which lasted a few hours after the bomb fell.
The court ruled that they should receive the same treatment as people who lived closer to the ‘ground zero.’
The judge ordered local authorities to give the 84 complainants ‘hibakusha’ certificates, confirming that they are people who were affected by the nuclear bombings. The status makes them eligible for free medical services and monthly allowances.
The status has been assigned under the Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law, which was passed in 1957 and applied only to people who lived within the city boundaries as of August 6, 1945.
In 1976, Tokyo divided affected areas into the “heavy rain” and “light rain” zones. However, many locals complained that the areas were too close together and rain on the one side of the river could not be designated radioactive while rain on the other side of the river was considered safe.
Until now, the Japanese government had refused to recognize the residents of so-called “light rain areas” as hibakusha.
During the five-year-long court battle, more than 10 of the complainants, aged in their 70s, 80s and 90s, died.
The Japanese government recognizes around 650,000 people as eligible for hibakusha status, nearly half of whom were Hiroshima residents.
The combined effects of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima killed around 140,000 people immediately or in the days afterwards, with thousands more surviving but suffering incurable illnesses caused by radiation.
This is not the first legal battle between the government and people who believe they were unfairly denied hibakusha status. A group called the Citizens Nuclear Information Center was established in 2003 with the objective of seeking the status through the courts. Hearings have been ongoing since then.
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