1． The involvement of Nagasaki lawyers in the hibakusha issue and in the nuclear weapons abolition movement consists of participation in the trial seeking certification that Nagasaki atomic bombing survivor Hideko Matsuya suffers from atomic bombing sickeness, participation in the joint suits on atomic bombing-induced illnesses currently pending in courts around Japan, and their contributions to the nuclear weapons abolition movement through these litigation activities. The Hideko Matsuya lawsuit was filed in September 1988 in Nagasaki District Court and ended in the plaintiff's victory five years later, then went on to victory in Fukuoka Appellate Court. Ultimately, Matsuya won victory in the Supreme Court on August 12, 2000. Her struggle lasted a long 12 years.
The number of lawyers who participated in these trials was 24, which was just short of half the 50 practicing lawyers in Nagasaki City at that time. For about half of the lawyers in the conservative city of Nagasaki participate in trials having the government as the defendant was a watershed event that would ordinarily be unthinkable. Underlying this were the laudable initiatives on the hibakusha issue taken by Nagasaki's young lawyers.
2． In those days the Nagasaki Prefecture Bar Association was dominated by a small number of perverse elder lawyers, which was the reason that democratic activities as a bar association were suppressed. At that time in Nagasaki there were but three members of the Japan Lawyers Association for Freedom, which is known for its democratic activities. With these three as the nucleus, in the early 1980s young lawyers came together for talks, and submitted a proposal to the Standing Committee for issuing a resolution in the name of the bar association expressing opposition on the matter of amending the Penal Code, which had even become a social issue at the time. However, it was rejected by the Standing Committee, which expressed opposition with the statement, "The bar association should not make statements of opinion on political issues. If such a resolution is passed, the association will be mistakenly seen as an extreme-left group." In this way, the Nagasaki Prefecture Bar Association in those days was by nature conservative.
3． In 1986 the Kyushu Federation of Bar Associations decided to hold its regular general meeting in Nagasaki. At that time, the conservative faction and the democratic young lawyers' camp had come to be about equally powerful. It had been decided to hold a symposium at the KFBA general meeting, and that year the conservative faction executive division imposed this task on the young lawyers' group.
The previous year had been the 40th anniversary of the atomic bombings, and the hibakusha issue had been accorded major treatment in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as in Tokyo, and in view of those circumstances the young lawyers' group had the view that because this symposium would be held in Nagasaki, it should take up the hibakusha issue. It was decided to call the symposium "Nagasaki Tribunal for Enactment of a Law for Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Hibakusha Relief."
At the symposium the young lawyers' group formed a 15-member executive committee and made the symposium into a courtroom drama in which the hibakusha were the plaintiffs, the government was the defendant, and the atomic bombings were condemned. The judge handed down a decision in which he said to the defendant, "Be the vanguard in the abolition of nuclear weapons, and enact a law under which the government takes the responsibility for hibakusha relief compensation." Everyone worked together on the scenario preparation, and the young lawyers divided up all the tasks among themselves. The lawyers thoroughly enjoyed the experience of participating in their first courtroom drama, and commented to each other on their attitudes and tone of delivery when making statements. As witnesses they had the participation of actual hibakusha Senji Yamaguchi and Sakue Shimohira, who graphically described their experiences of the atomic bombing. Audience members were deeply impressed by the testimony, and the symposium was a success with its demand for nuclear weapons abolition and hibakusha relief. General meeting participants unanimously adopted a declaration with the same substance. Organizers called on the general public and urged people to view the courtroom drama. Never before had a bar association held such an event, and it surely inspired and encouraged the hibakusha and the general public.
4． The above-mentioned lawsuit over the atomic bombing injuries of Hideko Matsuya was filed two years after the symposium. It was possible for about half the lawyers in the Nagasaki Prefecture Bar Association to come together for this trial precisely because of the they had undertaken that symposium. Most of the lawyers who had risen to action of course had a strong sense of human rights, but they were all apolitical, and nearly all of them had not experienced the atomic bombings. Yet, as long as a person was living in Nagasaki, one came into everyday contact with the hibakusha issue. Twenty-four lawyers gladly participated in the trial that won atomic bombing sickness certification for Hideko Matsuya, who had left hemiplegia. In fact, hardly any of the participating lawyers thought that it would be truly possible to win the lawsuit. At that time the only people who could be certified were those who had been within 1.8 to 2 km of ground zero, and illnesses were limited to, for example, cancer, leukemia, and problems with hematogenous functions. Hideko Matsuya had been 2.45 km from ground zero and her illness was left hemiplegia, a motor function disorder. In view of precedents, her bid for certification would naturally have been turned down, and it was thought extremely difficult to prove that this motor function disorder was caused by atomic bombing radiation. It was under these circumstances that all the people involved tackled their first first atomic bomb sickness certification lawsuit. What is more, this group of lawyers had no background knowledge at all; most of the participating lawyers were unaware of even the existence of DS86 (Dosimetric System 1986) and did not even understand the certification system. Through trial and error the group did battle in court and won.
In reality, this court victory was not won solely through the efforts of Nagasaki lawyers. In terms of courtroom activities alone, many lawyers in Fukuoka, Kyoto, and Tokyo took the lead at the appellate court and Supreme Court stages, and victory would have been impossible if it had not been for the cooperation of physicians and scientists from various fields.
Most of all, the victory was a gift from supporters throughout Japan. Thanks to this trial, the number of people joining the Support Group has increased year by year, ultimately spreading to the whole country and leaving no prefecture without supporters, who now number more than 10,500. At each hearing, the galleries of both Nagasaki District Court and Fukuoka District Court were filled by supporters, while many others assembled outside the courthouses because they could not get tickets.
Gathering this many supporters necessitated sad and moving organizing activities in every corner of Japan. With the Support Group office staff as the nucleus, and sometimes with the added help of lawyers, organizers traveled around the country making appeals about the significance of the lawsuit, and called for support. I myself appealed for support at many citizen and labor union meetings in Nagasaki City, and also traveled to Kagoshima Prefecture, Hiroshima Prefecture, and even to Aomori and Akita prefectures, where I delivered talks or visited democratic groups and labor unions, and asked people to make contributions and join the Support Group. Other lawyers too did this. I think this nationwide organizing allowed us to bring awareness to many people about the reality of the bombings. Dues from the 10,000-plus members financed lawsuit activities, organizing activities, and more.
The Support Group was dissolved with the lawsuit's conclusion. What disappoints me is that the people who came together of course wanted relief for Hideko Matsuya, but all of them also want to abolish nuclear weapons. I wonder if we could have reorganized this group of over 10,000 people as the vehicle for a campaign to abolish nuclear weapons. I hope this experience will be useful in future campaigns.
5． Hideko Matsuya's lawsuit decision was finalized by the Supreme Court on August 21, 2000. Even though this lawsuit clearly condemned the errors of the government's administrative procedures for certification, the government made no attempt to revise its certification criteria. Instead, it continued refusing relief for hibakusha by coming up with a cause probability argument that merely put new clothes on DS86.
For that reason, joint suits on atomic bombing-induced illnesses were filed in courts around Japan. These trials started in April 2004 with 306 hibakusha from throughout Japan, 45 of whom were plaintiffs in Nagasaki District Court. Currently 29 Nagasaki lawyers are participating in the class-action suit in Nagasaki, working constantly for hibakusha relief. Just as in Hideko Matsuya's lawsuit, the current joint suit has three objectives: (1) Get atomic bombing illness certification for hibakusha plaintiffs, (2) make the government conduct a fundamental reassessment of the certification criteria and system, and (3) use trials as a means to call the public's attention to the reality of the atomic bombings, and carry that over into a campaign for nuclear weapons abolition. Although not complete, objectives (1) and (2) have in the main been achieved. Objective (3) has yet to be attained, and it seems we have a long, hard slog ahead. But it is no longer impossible for anyone to stop the world trend toward nuclear disarmament. Nagasaki lawyers too intend to strive toward that goal through their own small efforts.
6． Finally, I beg the reader's indulgence in writing about a personal matter: My parents and I are all hibakusha. My father was 2.4 km from ground zero when the bomb went off. My mother and I, who had evacuated to Kumamoto, went to see my father a week after that, and entered the city via ground zero. My father died from cancer of the esophagus, and my mother died after suffering with skin cancer and a brain tumor. It is my belief that they were both killed by the atomic bomb.
All hibakusha see nuclear weapons as devilish weapons that cannot be allowed to exist, and when seeing hibakusha die one after another from atomic bombing-related illnesses, they are convinced that nuclear disarmament is the only way for humanity to survive. I sincerely hope that this NPT Review Conference will be a production meeting that opens the way to abolishing nuclear weapons.