Statement Marking the Occasion of Two Years after the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Subsequent Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant Accident
Today marked the occasion of two years after the Great East Japan Earthquake (“Disaster”) and the subsequent Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant accident (“Nuclear Accident”).
In the face of the Disaster, with the fundamental perspective of “restoring humanity” which seeks recovery of basic human rights for each person, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (“JFBA”) has been making various recommendations by learning the needs of those afflicted by the Disaster (Disaster victims) and Nuclear Accident victims, and has been working toward the realization of those recommendations. However, since some recommendations have yet to fully manifest their effects, the JFBA reiterates the following themes:
First of all, in order to address the so-called “double loan” problem, the JFBA has been actively cooperating in the operation of the System for Reduction of and Exemption from Double Loan Problems for Disaster Victims (the Guidelines for Out-of-Court Settlement between Individual Debtors and Creditors) which was established upon the proposal made by the JFBA and others, but it is far from being widely utilized. The same can be said for the “Rehabilitation Support Organization for Companies Damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake” and “Industrial Reconstruction Organizations” which were set up in order to address the double loan problems faced by business operators. Improvement in the operation of both schemes is considered necessary since the purpose and role of these schemes are not well-known or fully publicized, and, furthermore, it appears that the System for Reduction of and Exemption from Double Loan Problems for Disaster Victims failed in particular to apply to some cases because of their failure to meet the requirement of the system even with consultations made with the management committee. The JFBA will thus endeavor to make those schemes easier for Disaster victims to access in cooperation with relevant organizations.
Secondly, with respect to the issue of compensation for damages, which is the most urgent issue for Nuclear Accident victims, the JFBA will continue to actively cooperate in the operation of the Dispute Settlement Center for Nuclear Disaster Compensation, and will again spare no effort to further strengthen the function of the dispute resolution center. In addition, with regard to claims for damages of property, mostly real property, which will be fully in progress soon, the JFBA will seek revision of appropriate policies and criteria of compensation which will surely lead to reconstruction of the disaster-stricken areas and rebuilding of Nuclear Accident victims’ lives, because the current compensation criteria indicated by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (“TEPCO”) does not sufficiently ensure recovery of Nuclear Accident victims’ financial stability. Furthermore, although TEPCO announced its opinion on the issue concerning the expiration of compensation rights due to the statute of limitations, which requires urgent attention, the details lack clarity and are far from a satisfactory remedy. For the purpose of preventing any disadvantages from being caused to any Nuclear Accident victims, the JFBA will thus call for drastic relief measures to be taken in respect of all the rights to claim compensation for damages caused by the Nuclear Accident through the enactment of legislation, such as i) acknowledgement that the statute of limitations will not begin to run as long as the damage continues or ii) suspension of the statute of limitations for a considerably prolonged period of time.
Thirdly, with regard to the Act on the Protection and Support for the Children and other Victims of the TEPCO Disaster on which many victims have high hopes, the JFBA has been engaged in activities to seek immediate implementation of measures based on the principles of the Act, bringing forward compelling voices of the Nuclear Accident victims and those who provide support to the victims, as well as appealing to the government and Diet members. However, even though almost nine months have been passed after the enactment of the Act, a basic policy which determines measures has not been formulated yet. This situation clearly indicates it runs counter to the purpose of the Act and the will of the legislative body which unanimously established the Act. The JFBA calls for prompt formulation of the basic policy based on the purpose of the Act and immediate implementation of concrete measures of assistance which respond to urgent requests of the Nuclear Accident victims.
Fourthly, with respect to the issue of the nuclear policy, the Nuclear Accident provoked demand by the public for renouncement of nuclear power plants, which seemed to make the hurdle against a resumption of the operation of nuclear power plants higher. Under such conditions, Prime Minister Abe declared in a policy statement made at a plenary session of the House of Representatives on February 28 the intention to restart nuclear power plants where safety had been confirmed. Only two years have passed since the Nuclear Accident. Still, it cannot be said that the Nuclear Accident has blown over and that the cause of the Nuclear Accident has yet to be thoroughly examined. Given such fact, the JFBA sounds a grave warning to such growing movement.
Fifthly, relating to the issue of town development for reconstruction, assistance by experts such as architects and attorneys is important for town development by residents in reconstruction projects of municipalities. In light of this, experts should be immediately dispatched at the Government’s expense through the introduction of a mechanism in which residents and disaster-stricken municipalities who are engaged in town development can utilize assistance by such experts smoothly and appropriately. Furthermore, the fundamental principle of the Basic Act on Reconstruction in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake clearly states the necessity of a thorough consensus-building among residents who take the initiative in the reconstruction projects and the town development. At the same time, however, since there is no mechanism to examine whether the consensus-building is appropriately conducted or not, a system of examination and correction in the consensus-building should be promptly established.
With the focus on the five issues as stated in the above, this statement describes the measures and the issues pertaining to assistance for those afflicted by the Disaster and relief for Nuclear Accident victims. For other problems together with the above-mentioned issues, the JFBA will put forth its utmost efforts into “restoring humanity” by working closely with those afflicted by the Disaster and Nuclear Accident victims until a thorough reconstruction from the Disaster, a settlement of the Nuclear Accident, and relief of Disaster victims and Nuclear Accident victims are achieved.
March 11, 2013
Japan Federation of Bar Associations