UN: Japan Violated Human Rights, Fukushima Evacuees Abandoned

“Why should people, especially women and children, have to live in places where the radiation level is 20 times the international limit?” Sonoda said. “The government hasn’t given us an answer.”
a
Mitsuko Sonoda’s aunt harvesting rice in her village, which is outside the mandatory evacuation zone, before the disaster.
Fukushima evacuee to tell UN that Japan violated human rights
Mitsuko Sonoda will say evacuees face financial hardship and are being forced to return to homes they believe are unsafe
A nuclear evacuee from Fukushima will claim Japan’s government has violated the human rights of people who fled their homes after the 2011 nuclear disaster, in testimony before the UN in Geneva this week.
Mitsuko Sonoda, who voluntarily left her village with her husband and their 10-year-old son days after three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant went into meltdown, will tell the UN human rights council that evacuees face financial hardship and are being forced to return to neighbourhoods they believe are still unsafe almost seven years after the disaster.
“We feel abandoned by the Japanese government and society,” Sonoda, who will speak at the council’s pre-session review of Japan on Thursday, told the Guardian.
An estimated 27,000 evacuees who, like Sonoda, were living outside the mandatory evacuation zone when the meltdown occurred, had their housing assistance withdrawn this March, forcing some to consider returning to their former homes despite concerns over radiation levels.
In addition, as the government attempts to rebuild the Fukushima region by reopening decontaminated neighbourhoods that were once no-go areas, tens of thousands of evacuees who were ordered to leave will lose compensation payments and housing assistance in March next year.
The denial of financial aid has left many evacuees facing a near-impossible choice: move back to homes they fear are unsafe, or face more financial hardship as they struggle to build lives elsewhere without state help.
“People should be allowed to choose whether or not to go back to their old homes, and be given the financial means to make that choice,” said Kendra Ulrich, senior global energy campaigner for Greenpeace Japan.
b.jpg
Sonoda’s son and a friend drinking from a mountain stream before the disaster.
“If they are being put under economic pressure to return, then they are not in a position to make an informed decision. This UN session is about pressuring the Japanese government to do the right thing.”
Evacuees are being encouraged to return to villages and towns near the Fukushima plant despite evidence that some still contain radiation “hot spots”.
In Iitate village, where the evacuation order was lifted this March, much of the surrounding forests remain highly radioactive, although homes, schools and other public buildings have been declared safe as part of an unprecedented decontamination effort.
“You could call places like Iitate an open-air prison,” said Ulrich. “The impact on people’s quality of life will be severe if they move back. Their lives are embedded in forests, yet the environment means they will not be allowed to enter them. Forests are impossible to decontaminate.”
After months of moving around, Sonoda and her family settled in Kyoto for two years, where local authorities provided them with a rent-free apartment. They have been living in her husband’s native England for the past four years.
“We’ve effectively had to evacuate twice,” said Sonoda, who works as a freelance translator and Japanese calligraphy tutor. “My son and I really struggled at first … we didn’t want to leave Japan.”
c.jpg
Sonoda and her family near her home in Fukushima before the disaster.
Concern over food safety and internal radiation exposure convinced her that she could never return to Fukushima, aside from making short visits to see relatives. “It’s really sad, because my village is such a beautiful place,” she said. “We had a house and had planned to retire there.”
The evacuations have forced families to live apart, while parents struggle to earn enough money to fund their new accommodation and keep up mortgage payments on their abandoned homes.
“Stopping housing support earlier this year was an act of cruelty,” Sonoda said. “Some of my friends had to go back to Fukushima even though they didn’t want to.”
Greenpeace Japan, which is assisting Sonoda, hopes her testimony will be the first step in building international pressure on Japan’s government to continue offering financial help to evacuees and to reconsider its resettlement plan.
It has called on the government to declare Fukushima neighbourhoods unsafe until atmospheric radiation is brought to below one millisievert (mSv) a year, the maximum public exposure limit recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.
While 1 mSv a year remains the government’s long-term target, it is encouraging people to return to areas where radiation levels are below 20 mSv a year, an annual exposure limit that, internationally, applies to nuclear power plant workers.
“Why should people, especially women and children, have to live in places where the radiation level is 20 times the international limit?” Sonoda said. “The government hasn’t given us an answer.”
 
Fukushima evacuees have been abandoned by the Japanese government
Mitsuko Sonoda says Tokyo is violating the human rights of evacuees by pressuring them to return to the area, even though radiation levels remain high following the 2011 nuclear power plant disaster
I used to live in Fukushima with my husband and our child, in a fantastic natural environment with a strong local community. That was until the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 destroyed coastal communities and killed tens of thousands of people.
The day after it hit, there were constant aftershocks. It gave us another massive scare when the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant exploded. We decided to evacuate to Western Japan to protect our child.
The government raised the level of “acceptable” exposure to the same standard as nuclear workers – 20 times the international public standard. My son was not a nuclear worker, but a little boy, more vulnerable to the effects of radiation than adults.
Like my family, many fled contaminated areas that were below the raised emergency level, but higher than acceptable. We have been labelled “self-evacuees”. We have never received compensation, outside some housing support.
Some of the evacuee children have struggled to adjust to a different environment. They have continued to miss family, friends and old schools, and have been bullied by other children in their new residences. There were even rumours of “contagion”.
Many children also really miss their fathers, who have often stayed in Fukushima for their jobs.
Mothers have silently tackled these difficulties, including health problems in themselves and their children. We have sometimes been labelled neurotic, irrational and overprotective, our worries about radiation dismissed. Divisions and divorce have been common.
All the while, we miss our relatives, friends, old community and the nature we used to live in.
In March, the government lifted evacuation orders, and the housing support for self-evacuees stopped. Citizens were pressured to return to Fukushima. Research said radiation levels still exceeded the government’s long-term goals.
Because evacuation orders have been lifted, Tokyo Electric Power Company will also stop compensation for victims by March 2018. We need this accommodation support to continue any kind of stable life.
Before Fukushima, they said a major accident could not happen. Now they say radiation is not a problem. They say hardly any compensation is needed. Why should we have to return to live in a radioactive area? Nuclear victims don’t seem to have the right to be free from radiation.
I’m travelling to Geneva this week to testify at a pre-session for the UN Human Rights Council’s review of Japan. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s resettlement policies are violating our human rights. If the Japanese government doesn’t support the nuclear survivors, what’s stopping other countries from doing the same in the future?
Mitsuko Sonoda is a Fukushima nuclear accident survivor and evacuee. She now advocates for the rights of nuclear disaster victims, and is going to the UN Commission for Human Rights with the support of Greenpeace Japan
Advertisements

Stand in solidarity: Defend the human rights of Fukushima survivors

Solidarity.jpg

 

Disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima remind the world how dangerous nuclear power is. But right now, the nuclear industry is trying to downplay the risks of a nuclear disaster. In Fukushima radiation exposure is still a very real threat despite failed “decontamination”.

The Japanese government is set to lift evacuation orders in heavily contaminated areas around Fukushima. It will cut compensation and housing support to survivors, who are still struggling six years later.

Their basic rights to health, housing, and environment are being violated. The government is desperately trying to minimize the disaster at the expense of survivors in an attempt to revive the dying nuclear industry and suffocate other cleaner energy sources. We must say no!

Sign now to demand the government provides fair compensation, housing support, and is fully transparent about the radiation risks.

We’ll deliver your signature to the Prime Minister so he hears the global wave of resistance against nuclear!

https://act.greenpeace.org/page/6288/petition/1?en_chan=fb&mode=DEMO&ea.tracking.id=facebook&en_ref=34770595

Fukushima resettlement policy violates international human rights commitments & Japanese law

20170306EN.png

Tokyo, 7 March 2017 – Japan’s policy to resettle residents to heavily contaminated areas in Fukushima is in contravention of Japanese law and multiple international human rights treaties. Greenpeace Japan and Human Rights Now detailed today numerous human rights violations resulting from the Japanese government’s response over the past six years to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

If there is anything the nuclear industry learned from Chernobyl, it’s that a large exclusion zone is bad for business. It’s a constant reminder that a nuclear disaster is irreversible, and it’s women and children who are bearing the brunt,” said Kendra Ulrich, Senior Global Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace Japan.

Cutting off housing support for self-evacuees threatens more than 10,000 households, potentially forcing many people back to contaminated areas against their will. Compensation payments will end in a year for people from areas where the evacuation order is being lifted, even though radiation levels far exceed the long-term targets in many areas. This amounts to economic coercion and is a deliberate violation of the law and survivors’ human rights.”

Released a day before International Women’s Day, Greenpeace Japan’s report reveals the greater impact on women and children due to both social disadvantages and increased risks to radiation exposure. [1] Greenpeace Japan, Human Rights Now and Fukushima survivor Noriko Matsumoto are calling on the Abe government to comply with Japanese law and address some of the most serious violations. 

A recent Greenpeace Japan led survey team found radiation dose rates at houses in the village of Iitate well above long-term government targets, with annual and lifetime exposure levels posing a long-term risk to citizens who may return. At some homes in Iitate, the dose of radiation is equivalent to one chest X-ray every week. Only 24 percent of the total area of Iitate has been ‘decontaminated’, despite a government website [2] stating that 100% of the decontamination in Iitate is completed. 

Evacuation orders will be lifted in many areas of Iitate no later than 31 March 2017, to be followed one year later by the termination of compensation payments. [3] In 2013, the UN Special Rapporteur Anand Grover called on the Japanese government to rectify numerous issues that violated this fundamental right for Fukushima survivors.

Japan is obligated under multiple human rights treaties to uphold citizens’ right to health. Instead of acting on the UN’s recommendations, the government has instead enshrined the violation of human rights into formal policy,” said Kazuko Ito, Secretary General of Human Rights Now. 

The resettlement policy contravenes the ‘Nuclear Disaster Victims Support Act’ of June 2012 which defines the government’s responsibilities to nuclear survivors. Multiple human rights treaties that Japan is party to also obligate it to uphold citizens’ rights to “the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”, which includes the right to information and the right to make informed choices regarding their health.

Greenpeace Japan and several Japanese civil society organisations (Human Rights Now, Friends of the Earth Japan, and Green Action Japan), recently sent a letter to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Special Rapporteurs asking that they assess the ongoing human rights issues faced by nuclear survivors. [4] Greenpeace will also be submitting comments to the UNHRC as a part of the current Universal Periodic Review of Japan on the plight of Fukushima evacuees. 

 

Notes to editors:

Photos: http://media.greenpeace.org/shoot/27MZIFJJGP9YV 

[1] Unequal Impact: Women’s and Children’s Human Rights Violations and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster 

[2] Of the 23,013 hectares in Iitate, 5,600 hectares have been decontaminated, much of it ineffectively – MOE: Environmental Remediation – Decontamination

[3] No return to Normal: Feb. 2017 – Greenpeace Iitate Case Studies

[4] Joint NGO Letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council Special Rapporteurs International Greenpeace Petition for Survivors’ Rights 

http://m.greenpeace.org/japan/ja/high/news/press/2017/pr201703071/