Recommendations from Japanese Civil Society on Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
Japanese citizens have sincerely welcomed the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which bans these inhumane weapons and provides for their total elimination. Citizens also welcome the first Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW. Although the Japanese government has yet to indicate the intention to sign and ratify the treaty, public opinion polls show that more than 70% of Japanese citizens believe that Japan should do so.
Articles 6 and 7 are among the TPNW’s central pillars. They stipulate assistance for victims of the use and testing of nuclear weapons, as well as environmental remediation and international cooperation for these purposes. Japan experienced the devastating effects of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Many Japanese fishing boats were exposed to radioactive fallout from nuclear tests conducted in the Pacific, which also caused radioactive rain that reached as far as the Japanese mainland. The Bikini Incident, in which crew on Japanese fishing boats were exposed to radioactive fallout, kickstarted the nuclear weapons abolition movement in Japan. And, although it was not caused by nuclear weapons, Japan also experienced the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011. These incidents are all examples of the impacts of radiation on people and the environment.
In Japan, many experts and members of civil society have been working with sufferers to better understand and compensate for the harm caused by exposure to radiation, and to guarantee that sufferers’ rights are protected and their dignity restored. Based on their knowledge and experience, this document makes recommendations to the Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW. We hope it will also be of use to governments not party to the treaty, as well as related organizations.
The abovementioned harm caused by nuclear weapons is not a problem of the past. It is long-lasting, and the trauma it causes passes from generation to generation. It continues to affect sufferers today.
Although the TPNW is focused on the use and testing of nuclear weapons, all related processes — from uranium mining to nuclear weapons’ development, manufacture, and disposal — as well as all activities using nuclear fuel, including civilian use, create sufferers from exposure to radiation. It is necessary to understand the harm beyond a narrow medical perspective. It is also necessary to understand the various psychological, economic, and social impacts, including the difficulties faced by sufferers’ families and descendants, as well the impacts on communities.
This document will discuss “nuclear sufferers,” broadly defined as those affected by activities related to nuclear weapons. They include both the deceased and survivors. In this document, we refer to them as “sufferers” because they lived, or are living, with multifaceted suffering.
Victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are called “hibakusha” in Japanese. The word appears in the TPNW’s preamble, meaning “victims of the use of nuclear weapons.” As a Japanese word, hibakusha can mean both those who sustained harm from bombs’ explosions as well as those exposed to radiation. Under the watchword of “No more hibakusha,” the sufferers of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have demanded the abolition of nuclear weapons — to save humanity from the existential threat they pose — and for state compensation for the harm caused (i.e. the atomic bombings) as a result of Japan’s war of aggression. Japanese civil society has been working in solidarity with many nuclear weapons sufferers, including those from nuclear tests conducted around the world, calling them “global hibakusha.”
The TPNW provides for victim assistance from a humanitarian and human rights perspective, and does not explicitly stipulate that States Parties that have used or tested nuclear weapons must provide compensation, only that they have a responsibility to provide adequate assistance. The responsibility of these states should be discussed separately, in a manner consistent with other international treaties and agreements. Full cooperation, including information disclosure by states that have used or tested nuclear weapons, will be essential in providing appropriate victim assistance and environmental remediation.
There are still more than 13,000 nuclear weapons in the world today, and we are currently experiencing further modernization of nuclear arsenals and a new nuclear arms race. Thousands of nuclear weapons are on hair trigger alert, and some states have even openly stated the possibility of using nuclear weapons in war. A continuation of the status quo is sure to create new nuclear sufferers. The international community must address this issue with a sense of urgency.
Governments and policymakers who believe that nuclear deterrence contributes to international security must recognize the humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons, along with the fact that rescue, recovery, and compensation are extremely difficult following their use. There is only one way to prevent irrecoverable harm — the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
Click here to view and download the full recommendations (interactive PDF), or here for a printer-friendly version in single A4 pages.
The shortened version submitted as a Working Paper to the MSP can be accessed here.
Read the recommendations in Japanese here.
Click on the image below for the summary page (link for PC only).