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A-Bomb Survivors Win 61-Year Struggle for Legal Recognition

A group of elderly victims of the U.S. atomic bombings on Japan in the waning days of World War II has won rare legal recognition as sufferers of radiation sickness.

Outside Hiroshima District Court elderly plaintiffs erupted into cheers when they heard that judges had granted them the right to receive additional benefits as atomic bomb survivors.

Friday's ruling reversed a government decision rejecting the 41 plaintiffs as certified radiation victims. The ruling could clear the way for the survivors to receive an extra $800 a month in medical allowances.

The judges criticized the government's methods for certifying victims, which is based on how far people were from ground zero in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. But the court did not award requested monetary damages to the plaintiffs.

The head of the plaintiffs' group, Sumio Shigezumi, says, nonetheless, he and his fellow victims are thrilled with the verdict.

Shigezumi says he hopes this ruling and another successful one in Osaka three months ago will set a precedent for similar trials in Japan.

Those who had been rejected for certification say they suffered ill effects shortly after the World War II bombings and later were diagnosed with cancer, liver ailments and other diseases. But Japan's Health Ministry has long contended their conditions cannot be ascribed to the atomic bombings.

The atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 in a U.S. effort to force Japan to surrender, which it did less than two weeks later.

More than 250,000 people have been recognized as radiation victims of the bombs, but medical certificates for treatment of related illnesses have been issued to less than one percent of those affected.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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