62nd JFBA General Meeting Resolution on Relief for Victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Nuclear Plant Incident and the Restoration and Recovery of Affected Areas
At 14：26 on March 11, 2011, the magnitude 9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake, the strongest earthquake ever recorded in Japan, hit Japan and the subsequent tsunami, fires and collapse of buildings and houses brought about a devastating disaster. This was especially the case along the coast of the Pacific Ocean in the Tohoku and Kanto districts. The death toll has reached 14,000 with more than 12,000 people still missing. Large numbers of victims are still suffering amid difficult living conditions.
Furthermore, the radioactive materials released by the multiple accidents at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant have caused and continue to cause great fears and threats to the safety of not only the residents in the immediate vicinity of the plant but to the entire Japanese population. The multiplied effect of the damage caused by the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accidents is worsening, including victims being forced to live for extended periods as evacuees, bans on the shipment of agricultural products, damage to the fishing industry due to the expanding threat of seawater pollution, and the spread of further damage to the agricultural and fishing industries via harmful and baseless rumors.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) expresses its deep mourning to those who lost their lives in this unprecedented disaster and heartfelt sympathy to the victims who are still suffering difficult conditions.
In the meantime, urgent support for securing funds for houses, employment, and assistance for the lives of victims and evacuees is still required. In this regard, it is especially important to give priority to those who are vulnerable including the elderly, children, people with disabilities, and foreign nationals. Special consideration should also be given to the needs of female victims.
Restoration and recovery of the affected areas should, in principle, be carried out via public money. However, local governments in the affected areas, while fully respecting the voices and opinions of the victims, should play a central role in speedily developing restoration and recovery plans which will provide hope to the victims in helping to rebuild their lives.
Now more than ever, we, attorneys, are truly expected to fulfill our mission to protect fundamental human rights and bring about the realization of social justice.
The JFBA fully recognizes that the disaster victims must play a central role in carrying out the restoration and recovery of the affected areas, and bears in mind that the purpose of restoration and recovery of the affected areas is to realize a “restoration of humanity,” i.e., to restore the fundamental human rights guaranteed under the Constitution of Japan. Standing by that principle, the JFBA hereby declares its commitment to support the relief of victims, and the restoration and recovery of the affected areas through its counseling services for victims, fully utilizing its professional abilities as a legal professional association, and is determined to carry out the following activities:
- The JFBA, together with local bar associations in both affected and non-affected areas, regional federations of bar associations, the Japan Legal Support Center, local governments, and other bodies, continues to establish a system to provide free and easily accessible counseling services on legal issues relating to rebuilding the lives of victims arising from this disaster. Also, in order to restore victims’ right to live their lives more fully, the JFBA plans to visit evacuation centers, temporary housing, and other areas to conduct free legal counseling services and also to provide necessary legal support, while giving due care and attention to the victims.
- In order to solve the problems which have become apparent through the above mentioned free legal counseling services for victims, the JFBA will make recommendations toward constructive policies and legislation concerning drastic revision of the Disaster Relief Act, the Act on Support for Reconstructing the Livelihoods of Disaster Victims, and the Act on Compensation for Nuclear Damage, relief from existing debt, and special legislation without adhering to the conventional legal framework. The JFBA will also make its utmost effort to realize its recommendations.
In addition, the JFBA is aware of the necessity to present proposals on policies concerning housing, jobs, medical care, social welfare, pension, public aid, nursing, education, taxes, strengthening the quake-resistance of school buildings, and others in every field of society, and will make recommendations on active and responsible policies and legislative proposals from the standpoint of legal professionals, whose mission is to protect fundamental human rights.
Furthermore, from the above viewpoint, the JFBA urges the state, the local governments concerned, and TEPCO to take measures as follows:
1. Standpoint in Proposing Systems Toward Restoration and Recovery
- It is proving difficult for the victims facing such an unprecedented disaster to even establish future objectives. Relief for the victims and the restoration and recovery of the affected areas should, in principle, be carried out by public money, as noted above. However, local governments in the affected areas, while respecting the voices of the victims, should play a central role in developing the restoration and recovery plans. The state and local governments in the affected areas should immediately present time schedules for restoration and recovery in order to show direction to ensure that all disaster victims including residents, persons in agricultural/fishing industries and small/medium-sized companies enjoy their fundamental human rights and are able to take their first steps after the disaster with hopes of achieving a “restoration of humanity.”
- Numerous victims lost their houses, cars, and factories, etc., and have only their debts remaining. Many of them will have to take out new loans in order to reconstruct their lives and bear double payments for existing and new loans. The state and local governments in the affected areas should take drastic measures to reconstruct lives and maintain employment opportunities including relief of such debts in order to solve this double loan problem.
2. Response to Accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant
The accidents at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant and the radioactive materials being released are not only problems facing the affected areas but have also drawn intense international attention. The JFBA urges the state, in cooperation with international organizations, to establish a system to disclose accurate information in a systematic and immediate way and promptly take necessary measures as follows:
- The state should accurately and immediately provide Japanese people with up-to-date information concerning the situation and all future possibilities of accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the actual radiation contamination levels of each part of Japan, and the long-term health risks resulting from exposure to the radioactive materials and systems for health control, and prevention of radiation exposure. The state should also evacuate residents living in hazardous areas as appropriately determined, guarantee accommodation during their prolonged evacuation, and provide them with sufficient life-support.
- For residents who have been instructed to evacuate or stay indoors, or have voluntarily evacuated, the state and TEPCO should immediately provide necessary and sufficient support for recovery of their lives and compensation for all damage they have encountered.
- The state and TEPCO should provide sufficient compensation for damage resulting from the nuclear accidents including compensation for damage to the agriculture and fishing industries and damage to the tourism industry due to harmful and baseless rumors.
- The state, TEPCO, and other nuclear power related organizations should immediately cease building new nuclear power plants, and abolish existing power plants in stages in order to avoid a repeat of such a disastrous nuclear accident. In particular, old nuclear power stations, which have been in operation more than thirty years, and those built in seismically-active areas with the risk of a major, future earthquake in its vicinity must immediately be stopped. As for other nuclear power plants, whether appropriate measures have been taken to protect against earthquakes and tsunami should be reviewed without delay, and the nuclear power plants whose safety cannot be confirmed should be de-commissioned.
- National security administration for nuclear power should be integrated into an administrative body independent from ministries and agencies which are promoting nuclear policies, in the style of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of the United States.
- Future energy policies should be drastically changed from the current energy policies. In future policies, sustainability should be placed as a fundamental principle, and the promotion of regenerative energy should be positioned at the core of such policies. Regarding other sources for generating electricity, such as coal and thermal power generation, the new and additional building of these facilities should also be stopped. The generation and transmission of electric energy should be separated, and the liberalization of the energy production and supply business should be accelerated. Effective enforcement of a system to suppress energy consumption should be introduced. It should be ensured that the development and deployment of low-carbon energy generation is to be accelerated by promoting various measures such as the Domestic Emissions Trading System, etc.
3. Enhancement of Civil Legal Aid in Meeting Damage from the Disaster
The JFBA, being aware that many of the disaster victims, including small and medium-sized companies, lost their properties, including houses, in the disaster and that they are experiencing very difficult living situations, urges the state to enhance and improve the civil legal aid system, including the establishment of special measures in the time of disaster, the expansion of the scope of cases and individuals covered by legal aid services and the extension of payment due dates or relief of payments for legal aid loans, in order to ensure that all victims are able to access legal aid.
Japan Federation of Bar Associations