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Court rejects damages suit by Hiroshima A-bomb survivors' children

A lawyer and plaintiff in a suit demanding compensation for the children of atomic bomb survivors hold up signs calling the Hiroshima District Court's ruling in favor of the government an unjust decision and calling for a path to further aid, in Hiroshima on Feb. 7, 2023. (Kyodo)

HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) -- A Japanese court on Tuesday dismissed a damages suit filed by the children of some Hiroshima atomic bombing survivors seeking financial support from the central government.

    In the lawsuit filed with the Hiroshima District Court in 2017, the 28 plaintiffs each sought damages of 100,000 yen ($760), claiming the state violated the Constitution by not providing them aid even though health damage caused by the genetic effects of radiation cannot be denied.

    In rejecting the suit, the court stated that the lack of legal provisions for support, such as those for their parents, did not represent unfair and discriminatory treatment, and it was therefore not unconstitutional for them not to receive aid.

    The ruling came after the Nagasaki District Court dismissed last December a similar suit filed by a group of children of Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors.

    The Nagasaki court also denied the state violated the constitutional guarantee of equality under the law, pointing out that the children were not deemed to have been directly exposed to radiation in the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing.

    Unlike their parents, who are eligible for financial aid, including coverage of medical expenses under the Atomic Bomb Survivors' Assistance Law, children of atomic bomb survivors are only eligible for free health checks.

    The plaintiffs sometimes referred to as second-generation hibakusha, argued that some scientific research had shown that the possibility of such a generation suffering ill health from their parent's exposure to radiation from the bombing could not be discounted.

    The plaintiffs claimed that the difference in their treatment constituted unreasonable discrimination in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution, which states that all people are equal under the law.

    The Hiroshima court said in the ruling that the assistance law applies to people who "may have been directly exposed to radiation from the bombing."

    It added that while children of survivors shared with their parents the chance of health issues developing, the existence and accuracy of scientific views "differ greatly."

    As a result, the court decided that a difference is present between A-bomb survivors and their children, and therefore the lack of legal measures to support the children did not represent a contravention of the Constitution.

    The government had argued that the effects of radiation on the children of atomic bomb survivors have not been confirmed and that it has no legislative obligation to provide relief.

    It had also sought the suit to be dismissed, demanding that the plaintiffs prove scientifically that the survivors' exposure impacted their children's health.

    According to a support group for second-generation A-bomb survivors, some 300,000 to 500,000 people across Japan are estimated to have parents who were exposed to the bombings.

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