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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Nuclear Issues – The Basic Standpoint of the Citizens of Hiroshima 核問題における広島市民の立場  広島市立大平和研究所 田中利幸教授

Toshiyuki Tanaka, Professor of Hiroshima Peace Institute submitted this letter to Gerard Cossette, Associate Deputy Minister Foreign Affairs of Canada, and Jonathan Fried, Ambassador of Canada to Japan at the luncheon hosted by the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo on December 4, 2009.


Nuclear Issues – The Basic Standpoint of the Citizens of Hiroshima

The fundamental issue for the citizens of Hiroshima when discussing nuclear issues is the incomprehensibly vast number of people affected by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima that occurred on August 6 1945. That morning, the atomic bomb instantly killed 70,000 to 80,000 civilians and by the end of 1945, 140,000 residents of Hiroshima had died as a result of the bombing. Many others have subsequently died or are still suffering from various diseases caused by radiation. Hiroshima’s anti-nuclear and peace movements are hence firmly embedded in the understanding that the indiscriminate and mass killing of civilians using nuclear weapons is genocide and that the use of nuclear weapons – under any circumstances – is therefore clearly a crime against humanity. We also regard nuclear deterrence policies to be crimes against peace as explicated by the Nuremberg principle, as “nuclear deterrence” effectively means planning and preparing to commit indiscriminate mass killing, i.e., a crime against humanity, using nuclear weapons. To fail to recognize these fundamental views would mean a complete loss of the momentum of our anti-nuclear and peace movements. I strongly believe that these views are also shared by the citizens of Nagasaki.

As advocates for nuclear abolition, as well as citizens of the first city to feel the effects of a nuclear attack, we are often disappointed by the fact that many politicians, bureaucrats and academics tend to engage in discussions on various nuclear issues, including nuclear deterrence and disarmament, neglecting this basic and indisputable fact – that these in fact signify the massacre of a large number of human beings (as well as many other creatures) using a weapon of mass destruction. They tend to deal with nuclear issues mainly within the frameworks of the “balance of power” between the nuclear states and of international political relations. We therefore would like to strongly urge those involved with these issues never to forget the extreme cruelty of the atomic bombing when entering into discussions on nuclear issues.

“One murder makes a villain, millions a hero. Numbers sanctify.” Henri Verdoux, a murderer, makes this statement shortly before being hanged in the film Monsieur Verdoux, produced by Charlie Chaplin in 1947. It seems that many of us are still influenced by this way of thinking. Indeed, despite countless publications, films and talks on the brutality of atomic bombing over the last 64 years, there is still not a single law anywhere in the world that criminalizes the use of nuclear weapons.

As far as the criminality of the use of nuclear weapons is concerned, worldwide there is so far only one judicial judgment, delivered by the Tokyo District Court in 1963, concerning the so-called Shimoda Case. This judgment plainly stated that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a clear violation of international law and regulations respecting aerial warfare. The court cited a number of international laws including the Convention Respecting the Laws and Customs of War and Land of 1899, the Declaration Prohibiting Aerial Bombardment of 1907, the Hague Draft Rules of Air Warfare of 1922-1923, and the Protocol Prohibiting the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Deleterious or Other Gases and Bacteriological Methods of Warfare. (For details, please see my article ‘The Atomic Bombing, The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal and the Shimoda Case: Lessons for Anti-Nuclear Legal Movements.’*) The judgment delivered by the International Peoples’ Tribunal on the Dropping of Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in July 2007 also stated that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a war crime as it ‘violated the principles prohibiting the mass murder of civilians, wanton destruction of cities and villages resulting in excessive death not justified by military necessity.’ In other words, it constitutes as a ‘War Crime established in Principle VI (b) of the Nuremberg Principles, and in Article (5) paragraph (b) of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.’ (For details, see the judgment passed by this Tribunal.**)

Despite this, as mentioned above, we have not yet succeeded in establishing an international convention to criminalize and ban the use of nuclear weapons. There are a number of NGOs, such as the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA), who are working hard to establish a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention by providing model conventions. As the world push for the abolition of nuclear weapons is now heightened, we, the citizens of Hiroshima, feel it is time to take effective action and enact an international convention. For this purpose we strongly support movements such as those of the ICAN and IALANA.

However, we believe that, as a step towards the establishment of such a convention, one of the existing international conventions should be fully utilized to quickly criminalize the use of nuclear weapons and other radioactive weapons such as depleted uranium (DU) weapons. In particular, we believe that Chapters II and III of Part IV, Section I “Civilian Population” of the “Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, Signed on 12 December 1977” are extremely useful for this purpose. It is crystal clear that the use of nuclear and DU weapons are a violation of Article 51 (Protection of the civilian population) and Article 55 (Protection of the natural environment) of this Additional Protocol. (Please see the attached copy of the Articles 51 and 55.)

In actual fact, during the process of drafting this Protocol, countries such as Romania, Yugoslavia and North Korea strongly suggested that there should be a provision to name the specific types of weapons of mass destruction to be banned, e.g.: nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. However, due to political pressures from nuclear powers, in particular the U.S., Britain and France, proposals to include such a provision were eventually rejected. The United States declared that ‘nuclear weapons were the subject of separate negotiations and agreements,’ and that ‘the rules established by this protocol were not intended to have any effects on and do not regulate or prohibit the use of nuclear weapons.’ Britain also issued the similar statement and made sure that their policy would not be affected by this Protocol.

It is immediately obvious, on reading the 1977 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions, that the use of nuclear weapons unquestionably contravenes this Protocol. However, because of the above-mentioned destructive attitude of nuclear powers, we need to include a provision which clarifies the criminality of the use of nuclear, radioactive, chemical and biological weapons as well as all weapons of mass destruction. Thus we would like to propose the addition of a straightforward and simple provision to the Protocol which would make the ban of the use of nuclear weapons a positive international law. It is an extremely simple formula and would therefore not require comprehensive discussion to draft the text of regulation. It only requires the political will of the majority of the nations in the world for it to become possible. Once we succeed in criminalizing the use of nuclear weapons by introducing a simple, new provision, we can start working to draft a separate and more comprehensive nuclear weapons convention, including provisions to ban the production and testing of nuclear weapons.

It is expected that nuclear powers such as the U.S. and Russia will not agree to such a scheme and will refuse to ratify it even if it is endorsed by many other nations. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that once a ban on the use of nuclear weapons becomes a positive international law, it will also serve to regulate the conduct of non-signatory nations.

Fortunately, the world situation concerning the popular demand for abolishing nuclear weapons has changed considerably – for the better – over the last year or so, although the danger of the proliferation of nuclear weapons is actually increasing. We, the citizens of Hiroshima, feel that the upcoming NPT Review Conference in New York in May next year will be a great opportunity to strengthen the rising popular call for the abolition of nuclear weapons and to make realistic proposals for criminalizing the use of nuclear weapons. To this end, the Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolishment (HANWA) – the largest nonpartisan anti-nuclear organization in Hiroshima, which includes many A-bomb survivors among its members – plans to start campaigning to propose the above mentioned scheme to criminalize the use of nuclear weapons using the 1977 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions.

If governments of nations like Canada, which are leading the world in Human Security, based upon a “Responsibility to Protect,” could provide assistance in the realization of this scheme, it would be of tremendous moral support to both Hiroshima’s anti-nuclear movement and to the A-bomb survivors, who long for the immediate abolition of nuclear weapons.

December 4, 2009

Yuki Tanaka
Executive Committee Member of HANWA,
Research Professor of the Hiroshima Peace Institute
* ‘The Atomic Bombing, The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal and the Shimoda Case: Lessons for Anti-Nuclear Legal Movements,’ with comment by Richard Falk posted at Japan Focus ( November 2009.


The Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, Signed on 12 December 1977

Art 51. - Protection of the civilian population

1. The civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against dangers arising from military operations. To give effect to this protection, the following rules, which are additional to other applicable rules of international law, shall be observed in all circumstances.

2. The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited.

3. Civilians shall enjoy the protection afforded by this section, unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.

4. Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited. Indiscriminate attacks are:
(a) those which are not directed at a specific military objective;
(b) those which employ a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective; or
(c) those which employ a method or means of combat the effects of which cannot be limited as required by this Protocol;

and consequently, in each such case, are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction.

5. Among others, the following types of attacks are to be considered as indiscriminate:

(a) an attack by bombardment by any methods or means which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians or civilian objects;

(b) an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

Art 55. Protection of the natural environment

1. Care shall be taken in warfare to protect the natural environment against widespread, long-term and severe damage. This protection includes a prohibition of the use of methods or means of warfare which are intended or may be expected to cause such damage to the natural environment and thereby to prejudice the health or survival of the population.

2. Attacks against the natural environment by way of reprisals are prohibited.

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