OSAKA – The central government and Hiroshima local governments appealed Wednesday a landmark ruling last month by the Hiroshima District Court that had recognized more victims of radioactive “black rain,” caused by fallout from the atomic bombing of the city, as eligible for support.
But the central government also said it would discuss expanding designated areas of support for the victims so that they would be able to receive assistance.
The July 29 verdict by the district court, the first of its kind, recognized the 84 plaintiffs who had suffered due to black rain after the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing as atomic bomb survivors, or hibakusha, making them entitled to free health benefits.
The plaintiffs had lived outside of a zone, officially designated by central government, in which people had to reside to be considered hibakusha. Because of that, the court’s decision, if it stands, could rewrite how Japan officially identifies such people, and expand the number of those eligible for benefits.
“Since the (Hiroshima court’s) decision is different from successive Supreme Court rulings, the decision was made to appeal,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters Wednesday afternoon.
“We can’t say the court’s decision was based on sufficient scientific evidence,” health minister Katsunobu Kato said Wednesday after announcing the government’s decision.
The Hiroshima prefectural and municipal governments were reportedly reluctant to push for an appeal but went along with the central government after it said it would review the areas of support.
“The central government is picking on the judicial judgement. The appeal is extremely regrettable, but we’ll continue to fight to win,” said Masaaki Takano, 82, head of the plaintiffs’ group.
The case began in November 2015 when 64 people in the city of Hiroshima and several surrounding areas filed a suit against the city and prefecture. Though the local governments, who are entrusted with the administrative duty of screening applicants for A-bomb health care aid, have been sued, the central government is also participating in the legal battle, as it designed the policy.
The plaintiffs claimed they suffered due to the black rain and other radioactive fallout that spread across Hiroshima after the United States dropped the atomic bomb.
But their applications to receive official hibakusha certificates were rejected because they were living outside the area officially designated for hibakusha status.
Without official recognition, they were not eligible to receive health and welfare benefits under a national law governing hibakusha and their families.
The plaintiffs asserted that rejection of their applications was illegal because their health was impacted by the radioactive black rain despite the fact that they were outside the government’s prescribed heavy black rain zone.
A related law established by the central government in 1976 applies to those living within a roughly 19-kilometer-long, 11-kilometer-wide zone, mostly to the northwest of the hypocenter near the current Atomic Bomb Dome.
The government’s position was that only people within the designated area, which had been drawn up by local meteorologists, were eligible for benefits under the 1976 law.
The zone was based on a meteorological study conducted in 1945 after consulting local residents. It concluded that black rain fell in an area roughly 15 kilometers east to west and 29 kilometers north to south from the epicenter.
Within that region, however, was an area 11 kilometers to the east and 19 kilometers north of ground zero, where rainfall was considered to have been heavier.
As to the 1945 meteorological study used to formulate the 1976 law for compensating the victims, the court said it was an important document. But it also acknowledged testimony from other experts who challenged the study’s scientific validity and said the area of heavy black rainfall was much wider than the official standard.
All 84 plaintiffs, the district court said, should be officially recognized as hibakusha.
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