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HOME  > Past issues  > 2016 April 27 - May 10  > Ex-fishermen affected by 1954 US H-bomb tests sue gov’t for relief
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2016 April 27 - May 10 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Ex-fishermen affected by 1954 US H-bomb tests sue gov’t for relief

May 10, 2016
Former Japanese fishermen, who operated in waters near a U.S. nuclear test site 62 years ago, and families of deceased fishermen on May 9 filed a lawsuit with the Kochi District Court to seek state compensation.

The plaintiffs are 45 people, including 23 ex-crewmen. They currently live in Kochi, Kanagawa, and Hyogo prefectures.

From March through May 1954, the United States conducted hydrogen bomb tests at Bikini Atoll of the Marshal Islands in the Pacific.

The Japanese government, however, abandoned its claim on the U.S. for recovery of damage for Japanese victims and long covered up materials regarding surveys on radioactive contamination of Japanese fishing boats and their crewmembers affected by the tests. The relief of the victims has been left untouched for decades.

The 23 plaintiffs exposed to radiation at that time are demanding that the state bear responsibility for its negligence, seeking two million yen each in compensation.

After filing the case, lawyer Kajihara Morimitsu said to the press in Kochi, “Japan chose to reach a political settlement with the U.S. and received a token sum of consolation money. Instead of giving aid to the victims, the government terminated the surveys. This is so cruel that I cannot forgive them. It’s a crime against humanity, a state crime. Until the government accepts responsibility, the Bikini incident won’t end. Many victims are in their 80s. The government should no longer evade responsibility.”

* * *

Group formed to support ex-fishermen’s lawsuit for damage caused by US H-bomb tests

On this day, a supporters’ group of the lawsuit was inaugurated.

In the inaugural meeting, as goals to be achieved through the legal battle, the group determined to make clear the governmental responsibility for victims of the U.S. nuclear bomb tests, pass on lessons learned from the tragic event to the next generation, and work to abolish nuclear weapons. The group will support the plaintiffs’ legal fight by making various efforts, including the publication of plaintiffs’ stories and initiating a fund-raising campaign.

On behalf of the plaintiffs’ group, two ex-crewmembers participated in the meeting.

The 85-year-old plaintiff talked about his experience at Bikini Atoll. He said, “It was almost midnight, I heard U.S. military aircraft through a microphone notifying fishing boats to move away from the area. When my ship returned to its home port in Kochi, I was told I was exposed to radiation. However, only the fish that we caught were examined.” The former fisher went on to say, “Nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons should be eliminated, otherwise they could devastate not only Japan but the rest of the world.”

Among six co-heads of the group, two joined the lawsuit. Yamashita Masahisa, one of the two, said, “During my research about the U.S. H-bomb tests, I met many victims. In the lawsuit, I want to convey their anger and sorrow to the government.”

Past related articles:
> Ex-fishermen in Kochi apply for workers compensation for radiation exposure from Bikini Atoll H-bomb test [February 27, 2016]
> Now is time to get full picture of radiation exposure from US H-bomb test at Bikini Atoll and provide support to all victims [February 24, 2015]
> Materials on 473 Japanese ships affected by US H-bomb test at Bikini Atoll disclosed [September 20, 2014]
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