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Report on the World Nuclear Victims Forum, Hiroshima, 21 - 23 November 2015

Prof Manfred Mohr from ICBUW Germany reports on the World Nuclear Victims Forum which was held in Hiroshima in November 2015.
20 January 2016 - Manfred Mohr

Nuclear Victims Forum

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the World Nuclear Victims Forum Executive Committee (WNVF) organized this event. The body was made up of different individuals - representatives of the anti-nuclear movement in Japan, including Nobuo Kazashi of ICBUW (Int. Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons). I was invited to participate as a representative of ICBUW and IALANA Germany.

Prior to the event a work meeting with the Japanese section of IALANA (JALANA = Japanese Association of Lawyers Agains Nuclear Arms) was held in Tokyo on the 18th November. In my speech, I explained the organisational and thematic development from IALANA to ICBUW, leading up to the current networking approach on "Toxic Remnants of War" (TRW). I described the potential but also the risks of such an approach, which opens up more opportunities for cooperation, for example regarding the topic of Agent Orange or the International Uranium Film Festival.

The World Nuclear Victims Forum was a large event with numerous participants in a very well organised setting. It was accompanied (among other things) by the exhibition "Hibakusha (nuclear victims) Worldwide" created by the German IPPNW (www.ippnw.de/hibakusha-weltweit). Presentations and discussions were assigned to various thematic blocks ("Sessions"): Locations and Cases of Nuclear Damage; Radiation Exposure; Campaigns against Nuclear and Uranium Weapons; Nuclear Energy).

Manfred Mohr Nuclear Forum The conference built an overall thematic bridge through focusing on the victims – ultimately another part of the nuclear chain. In my speech I emphasised that the German nuclear phase-out will only be completed if both Nuclear Sharing within NATO and the uranium enrichment plant in Gronau are being stopped. I also sought to demonstrate opportunities for thematic connectivity via the TRW concept - dealing with environmental damage caused by war. 

The Forum was characterised by many harrowing reports and frustrating experiences. This applied, for example, to the treatment of the second generation Hibakusha and the way in which the Fukushima disaster is handled. For the latter purpose, a special appeal (Never Forget Fukushima, Never Again) was adopted by the Forum which condemns the behaviour of TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) and the Japanese government. It harshly criticises the export of nuclear technology by Japan.

During the Forum, various attempts at taking legal action against the behaviour of the authorities (downplaying of threats, denial of responsibility and help etc.) were mentioned, including class actions. Perhaps it would be advisable to share knowledge about case related legal arguments and procedural-tactical experiences.

Multiple mentions were made of the Marshall Islands proceedings against nine nuclear weapon states before the ICJ (International Court of Justice). It will be specially monitored and supported by the IALANA.

An essential foundation for judicial or legal action in support of nuclear victims stems from the realm of human rights. The humanitarian or TRW approach uses a similar argument as its basic claim (e.g. the right to life and right to health).

Similarly, the "Draft Elements of a World Charter of the Rights of Nuclear Victims" adopted by the Forum originates in a human rights approach. These also include the rights of indigenous peoples that are particularly ignored during uranium mining. Additionally, it points to the right not to be exposed to (unnatural, non-medical) radiation, to information rights, to the right to medical assistance and compensation as well as to the prohibition to be forced to return to contaminated areas.

The Forum declaration itself provides a summary of the discussion focuses and main demands; the reference to a “military-industrial-academic-governmental complex government side", which is acting inhumanely with its support for nuclear energy is particularly interesting. The declaration calls for the outlawing of nuclear and DU weapons. There is a great emphasis on the role of art and media in the implementation of the Forum's objectives.

Especially for this purpose - as well as generally with regard to nuclear victims - there shall be further exchange and networking. It is about processes on a meta-level, which can also be fed by practical experiences – for instance about the use of information freedom instruments (freedom of information laws) to generate transparency against an ignorant bureaucracy and political sphere. More specifically, but within this broader context, it also allows to follow concrete objectives, such as nuclear disarmament.