«The World Health Organisation (WHO) is failing in its duty to protect those populations who are victims of radioactive contamination.»

7 - November - 2012

Katsutaka Idogawa (Mayor of Futaba) in front of WHO

An anti-nuclear city like Geneva, what a dream it must be for the Mayor of Futaba, a small Japanese town 3km from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. Futaba was wiped out by the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011. Because of the radioactivity the population will be unable to return for decades, if ever. The Mayor, Katsutaka Idogawa, came to Geneva at the end of October to testify at the UN Human Rights Council, along with Toshio Yanagihara, lead lawyer of the “Fukushima Collective Evacuation Trial”. Mayor Idogawa was received on 30 October by the Mayor of Geneva, Rémy Pagani, who expressed the sympathy and support of Geneva.

“Are there other mayors who have joined you to protest against the policy of the Japanese government that ignores the health problems of people who must live or even return to contaminated areas? ” asked Geneva Mayor Rémy Pagani. “No, I’m the only one!” replied Mayor Idogawa. ” How do you explain this?” the Geneva mayor asked. “Because the other mayors believe the lies of the authorities that minimize the danger. The authorities do not give the actual measurements of radioactivity. They have also multiplied by 20 the maximum doses recommended by specialized international organizations: 20 mSv per year in Japan and only 1 mSv in the rest of the world. We are guinea pigs.” Mr. Idogawa pointed out that, after Chernobyl, the Soviet authorities evacuated people from less polluted areas. “We know that the number of sick children currently in non-evacuated areas is estimated at 80% by local pediatricians.” The mayor is seeking support for efforts to put pressure on the Japanese government to have children evacuated to safe areas of the country.

At the Human Rights Council

After the warm reception at the Geneva City Hall, the Japanese delegation spoke at an information meeting at the UN Geneva headquarters. The meeting preceded the examination on 31 October of the human rights situation in Japan by the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) working group of the Human Rights Council. Mayor Idogawa said the human rights of the population are being violated by the lack of action and distorted information concerning radioactivity provided by the authorities. Immediately following the nuclear accident, the Mayor and 300 residents were exposed to extremely high levels of radiation before they were finally evacuated thanks to his own initiatives. “I am the only mayor in contemporary Japan with personal experience of being covered with nuclear ash,” he said. Mayor Idogawa provided detailed information, illustrated with tables and maps, on the situation of radioactivity throughout Fukushima prefecture, information that the authorities refuse to provide to the population. In his turn, lawyer Toshio Yanagihara spoke about the “Fukushima Collective Evacuation Trial.” Through this class action suit on behalf of 14 children, the plaintiffs hope to force the authorities to recognize the legal right of hundreds of thousands of children to be evacuated from the contaminated areas. The fact that children are obliged to eat contaminated food and breathe radioactive air is a violation of the rights of the child. The press is either gagged or passes on false information provided by the government, which is a violation of the right to freedom of expression and information.

The Right of evacuation for children at risk

The Mayor and the lawyer urged the Human Rights Council to make recommendations to the Japanese government to give priority to the health of the population, especially the children. Mr Yanagihara pointed out that the government applies the lessons learned from Chernobyl to avoid the costs of compensation and not to interfere with the nuclear industry: increasing maximum tolerable radiation doses, covering up the diseases already apparent, systematically refusing to take into account the effects of internal radiation, and not establishing statistical control information …

Official misinformation

Lawyer Toshio Yanagihara showed photographs of the new metering equipment installed by the authorities: the machines display 40% less radioactivity than those set to international standards. A young Japanese student, Takafumi Honda, representing the “World network for saving the children from radiation,” read children’s letters, including one from a girl from the region of Fukushima who is worried and asks if she will be able to have children and if they will be normal.

Dr. Michel Fernex, professor emeritus of the University of Basel (Switzerland) and member of IndependentWHO, who recently visited Japan, spoke of birth defects that occur after ingestion or exposure to radioactivity: the genome is attacked and anomalies appear. These anomalies are transmitted to subsequent generations. Around Fukushima, there is already an increase in miscarriages and perinatal mortality, low weight in new-born babies, children with abnormalities of the thyroid gland, sudden death. Cancers appear later, he said. It is imperative that children and pregnant women be evacuated and that healthy food is available to all residents.

Outside WHO for more than five years …

The Japanese also visited those who maintain the ‘Hippocratic vigil’ of the group “IndependentWHO”, activists who stand every weekday opposite the WHO’s Geneva headquarters and have been doing so for more than five years, demanding that WHO fulfil its mandate to ensure the highest possible level of health for the world’s population. WHO no longer has a department that deals with the effect of radiation on health: it has abdicated its responsibility and endorses the policies of the nuclear lobby, which is itself supported by the nuclear powers.



Left to right: Patrick Dubezak (vigil), George Gordon-Lennox, Megumi FURUBAYASHI (UN Geneva representative ‘ATD Quart Monde’), Catherine Bibard (vigil), Dr Michel Fernex, Katsutaka IDOGAWA (Mayor of Futaba, Japan), Maitre Toshio YANAGIHARA (representative of plaintiffs, Fukushima Collective Evacuation Trial), Takafumi HONDA (World Network for Saving Children from Radiation), Miho Kozawa-Hoffmann (IndependentWHO), Hisashi SAITO (interpreter).

Special Rapporteur on Health to visit Japan

The efforts of the visitors from Japan and NGOs including the Japanese Association for the Right to Freedom of Speech (JRFS), which organised the information meeting, and others such as ACSIR (Japanese Association for Citizens and Scientists Concerned about Internal Radiation Exposures), which supported the visit by the Mayor of Futaba to Geneva, as well as the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, have already started to bear fruit: during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Japan a recommendation was adopted “Protecting the right to health and life of residents living in the area of Fukushima from radioactive hazards and ensuring a visit of the Special Rapporteur on the right to health in that connection.” As a result, the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Anand Grover, announced he would visit Japan from 15 to 26 November. ACSIR has just sent a particularly alarming letter about the radioactive contamination in the area to the Special Rapporteur. It will be recalled that members of ACSIR participated in the Forum organized by IndependentWHO in Geneva last May.

Our hosts and those taking part in the Hippocratic vigil were very moved by this visit, which symbolizes mutual solidarity and the commitment of so many associations to put an end to the nuclear threat to so many lives.

Odile and George Gordon-Lennox, (IndependentWHO members)

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