About the Japanese Delegation
Dear friends, we, the Japanese delegation, came to join the seminar, sharing seriousness and passion with you. Two A-Bomb survivors (Hibakusha) of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are here, too, with the delegation. Sixty-two years have already passed since the atomic bombings by the United States took place in August 1945. The Hibakusha are aging and their health is failing. Yet, they came all the way from Japan to Costa Rica because they want you to know something of the harmful effects of the atomic bombings. The knowledge of the harmful effects will reaffirm your recognition of the criminality of the atomic bombings. The knowledge of the harmful effects is a starting point for the movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons. We have a duty to know what the atomic bombs have brought to humankind. This responsibility is guided by human dignity and justice. An atomic hell does not allow humans to live as humans. Such a tragedy must stop being repeated. The deprivation of human life by devastating violence is totally contrary to humanity and justice.
I want to refer to the statement by Dr. Masao Nakazawa, a member of the delegation and a psychiatrist who has treated A-Bomb survivors. According to Dr. Nakazawa, the deep wounds to their psyches, caused by one of the worst tragic experiences in human history, will never heal: their traumas will continue until they die. Some cases show that the shock of the experience damaged the memory function of the brain, making not a few Hibakusha unable to speak of their experiences. You will understand that what the Hibakusha can recount is insufficient to depict the full horror of the atomic bombings.
Second, I want you to know of not only the harmful effects of the bombings but also of the strenuous efforts of the Hibakusha in opposing nuclear weapons. I want you to understand that the Hibakusha have not remained depressed in distress and resentment; they have made desperate efforts to ensure that they will be among the last victims of nuclear weapons. I hope that their wishes will be taken seriously.
The delegation members also include scientists and lawyers, such as Professor Kenji Urata, Vice President of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) and Mr. Masanori Ikeda, President of the Japanese Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (JALANA). Keeping in mind the Hibakusha's belief that humans cannot coexist with nuclear weapons, Japanese lawyers have tried to make all possible efforts to realize a nuclear weapons-free world by calling for and by taking various actions.
But the unfortunate reality is that nuclear weapons still exist. It is estimated that nuclear weapons states possess a total of 27,000 nuclear warheads. Their destructive power is more than enough to annihilate the earth and humanity. In addition to these already existing weapons, nuclear proliferation and the development of usable nuclear arms is ongoing. The U.S., in particular, sets the preemptive use of nuclear weapons at the core of its offensive strategy. The threat or the use of nuclear weapons and of nuclear war is very real. What harmful effects the use of nuclear weapons would bring about can be known from the stories of A-Bomb survivors, and also by scientific simulations. We share with you our wish to achieve the elimination of nuclear weapons without delay.
The Necessity of an Early Conclusion of a Treaty Totally Banning and Eliminating Nuclear Weapons
The successful abolition of nuclear weapons requires the will and action of movements in demanding a legal framework for that purpose. Needless to say, the legal framework for the abolition of nuclear weapons is the enactment and enforcement of a treaty totally banning and eliminating nuclear weapons. We express our deep respect for those members of the Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy (LCNP) and of the IALANA who drafted the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention and made it an official document in the United Nations. We have engaged in the translation of the Convention into Japanese and in its dissemination in Japan. Yet, the Japanese Foreign Ministry refuses to publish the translated version of the Convention. The Convention has not come to the attention of many Japanese people, so the movement for its establishment has not been very successful. Nevertheless, we need to show to the public the first steps along the path leading to the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Japanese anti-nuclear and pro-peace forces seek to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons. It is well known that they played an important role in getting an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law. After such an achievement, they seek to build momentum before the 2010 NPT Review Conference for the realization of a nuclear weapons abolition treaty. I hope that this seminar will be a great encouragement to anti-nuclear peace forces in Japan and in the rest of the world.
A Proposal by Japanese Lawyers
We, Japanese lawyers, have one proposal here.
We want to go to an official body over the illegality of the atomic bombings. Using the experiences of A-Bomb survivors, we want to show how criminal and inhumane nuclear weapons are. We have come up with a plan to file a lawsuit in the U.S. federal courts with the Hibakusha as plaintiffs and the U.S. government as a defendant, seeking a judgment of illegality on the atomic bombings, demanding an apology to and compensation for the Hibakusha. Such a plan has been conceived but has not been undertaken. Needless to say, we are not optimistic about such litigation being accepted by the U.S. courts. (For more details, please refer to the report of Mr. Toshinori Yamada.)
We believe that the atomic bombings were contrary to international humanitarian law. In the Shimoda Case in which the Hibakusha contested the legality of the atomic bombings, the Tokyo District Court handed down a decision in favor of the plaintiff. This judgment was reflected in the advisory opinion of the ICJ.
We want you to recall that after the end of the Second World War, the Allies tried the war criminals of Germany and Japan in Nuremberg and Tokyo. The trials were based on the international humanitarian law and the laws of war. The international humanitarian law in those days already prohibited indiscriminate bombings of non-combatants, attacks on non-military facilities, and the use of arms capable of inflicting unnecessary suffering. The atomic bombings were an obvious violation of these provisions. The lawyers of the Allies took the stand that the international humanitarian law could be applied not only to the criminals of the defeated countries but to those of victorious ones as well. So far, however, there have been no attempts to try the legality of the atomic bombings in court by the victorious countries. If the atomic bombings are not regarded as illegal, any cruel means could be used to win war. It also means the loss of the significance of the international humanitarian law and the laws of war. To put it differently, law would become ineffective in the face of physical violence by states in war, which means that people would be left exposed to extraordinary violence without defense. Law would be helpless in the face of the use of nuclear weapons.
Moreover, if U.S. courts do not accept the lawsuit by the Hibakusha, we are going to lodge an individual petition on their behalf to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS). Based on our study, we expect that the IACHR would accept the individual petition of the Hibakusha as a claim within its jurisdiction and accept to hear it because the U.S. is a member state of the OAS. The IACHR is open to individual petitions brought against member states by citizens of countries who are not members; therefore, the Hibakusha could be heard. Because the infringement on their human rights is still ongoing, represented by the harmful effects of the atomic bombings on their lives, their health, and their human dignity, we believe that there is no time limitation, even though the atomic bombings took place in 1945 and the OAS was established in 1948. We expect that the IACHR is highly likely to accept the petition and to undertake an investigation. Though we are aware that the decision of the IACHR does not bind the U.S., we think that the action and decision of the international organization would have a significant political meaning. (For more details, please refer to the report of Ms. Lilian Yamamoto.)
Thus, we want to go to court over the atomic bombings. We are aware that a victory in the lawsuit will not automatically lead to the elimination of nuclear weapons. But we hopefully believe that the process of the lawsuit will help arouse world opinion in favor of the abolition of nuclear weapons. It is the process to make known to the people of the world that the harmful effects of atomic bombings do not end soon after the bombings. Rather, the effects of radiation are still causing diseases, such as cancers and leukemia. The process is to prove that the atomic bombings were illegal, as we did in the International People's Tribunal to Judge the A-Bombings. And the process is to obtain a judgment from such an official international body as the IACHR of the OAS that the use of nuclear weapons can never be allowed under international law. (On the continuing suffering of A-Bomb victims, please refer to the report of Ken-ichi Ohkubo on the collective lawsuits of the Japanese Hibakusha to get official recognition of their diseases as being A-Bomb related. As for the International People's Tribunal, please refer to the report of Mr. Masanobu Inoue. In the tribunal, Professor Vargas was a judge.)
The Necessity of a Trial in the U.S.
I have gotten to the need of a trial in the United States. Before an individual petition against the U.S. is filed before the OAS, all means of remedying the situation domestically must be exhausted. Because of this required step, we need to present the case to a U.S. court first. But what more fundamentally motivated us to do so is that the leaders of the U.S. government have been justifying the atomic bombings as just acts for bringing an earlier end to the war and many U.S. citizens believe this as well. We want to bring this issue to the U.S. courts, contesting the atomic bombings as contrary to international law and constituting war crimes. We want to confront the arguments of the U.S. government that falsely justify the atomic bombings. We want to question whether U.S. law condones the indiscriminate and cruel deaths of so many, whether U.S. law tolerates the continuing suffering of the Hibakusha.
We believe that U.S. courts and the U.S. government must respond honestly to our filing. As a member of the Allies, the U.S. government tried the war criminals of the Axis Powers. At that time, the U.S. government stood on the basis of law, justice, and humanity as a standard. We believe that the U.S. government was right to do so. That is why the U.S. government must meet us in U.S. courts where we will prove that atomic bombings are contrary to law, justice, and humanity. The U.S. government should apply its established norm to itself. It is arrogant and unfair for it to ignore its own crimes while condemning the crimes of others. We want to force the U.S. government and its lawyers to confront the law.
The law is not almighty; however, the law is expected to control outright violence. It is a duty of lawyers to fulfill this role of law.
I want to conclude my speech by expressing my commitment to a success of the seminar.