Purpose and Plans for the People’s Tribunal on Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
The Korean atomic bomb victims are suffering. They were first oppressed as colonial subjects under Japanese imperialism. Then they experienced one of the most horrific events of the 20th century, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. However, the Korean government continues to neglect them. Therefore, the Korean Atomic bomb victims demand an acknowledgment of their existence and the continued violence and trauma they are experiencing. And they call on the Korean government to conduct an investigation to determine the most accurate number of Korean victims and the conditions of their suffering, including their descendants. Above all, they demand accountability, apology, and reparation from the US and Japan.
Efforts to hold the US accountable began in 2015 with an appeal by the Korean A-bomb victims at the 9th NPT Review Conference. Mr. Jin-tae Shim, a Korean A-bomb victim, and Mr. Bong-dae Kim, a father of a second-generation victim, urged peace organizations from all over the world to hold the US government accountable for dropping the atomic bomb.
At the 2015 NPT conference, Mr. Shim pleaded, “The atomic bomb victims need to join forces to hold the US accountable for using nuclear weapons. The United Nations, a symbol of world peace, must provide solutions to the suffering of atomic bomb victims and abolish all nuclear weapons. We must act, not just for the sake of our generation, but for our future generations and for world peace. There is no peace as long as there are nuclear weapons. We must work together to build solidarity and apply pressure on all states. Let us bring the UN General Assembly resolution to support all Atomic bomb victims.”
From 2015 to 2017, SPARK and the A-bomb victims reviewed the possibility of litigation in US courts. However, we confronted legal challenges such as sovereign immunity and the indemnity clause in US domestic law.
In September 2019, the Korea Atomic Bombs Victim Association decided to pursue a people’s tribunal to hold the US government accountable for crimes against humanity. Once the people’s tribunal is completed, we plan to seek actual litigation built on the accumulated contents and evidence from the people’s tribunal. Today, Gyu-yeol Lee and Ki-yeol Lee, the current chairman and vice-chairman of the association, and Jin-tae Shim, the head of the Hapcheon branch, all of whom are first-generation survivors, will continue to engage in the litigation process as individuals even after their terms expire.
The people’s tribunal represents the Korean atomic bomb survivors’ determination to problematize a paradoxical situation where “there are victims, but there are no perpetrators that took accountability.” Moreover, they believe that “the US must take accountability for its original sin to realize a world free of nuclear weapons.”
We intend to hold a tribunal at the UN headquarters during the 11th NPT review conference. Before the 11th NPT review conference, we expect to hold several international conferences in Korea, Japan, and the US.
Several academics, researchers, peace activists, and lawyers are preparing for the tribunal. We are motivated by the devoted survivors and board members of the Association. So far, we’ve held 23 monthly meetings, reviewing precedent cases, such as ‘the Shimoda case,’ other tribunal cases, and assessing applicable international law, such as the 1996 ICJ advisory opinion and minority opinions.
Constructive reconstitution of the minority positions is understood to be the determining factor for developing legal principles.
Despite the pandemic, we launched archival research and will soon request the disclosure of information from the US. Meanwhile, we have published books and digitalized oral histories collected in the 1970s, increasing their utility as data.
Following the research in the US, we plan to conduct research in Korea and Japan. We are also planning to mobilize lawyers and legal scholars who support the people’s tribunal to form an anti-nuclear lawyers association.
In 2023, we will officially form the International Preparatory Committee for People’s Tribunal and hold an International forum. With more people joining the team, we will be able to conduct in-depth research, separating archival research and reviewing legal principles into two separate activities. We also plan to form the judicial bench at this stage.
Holding the US accountable will be challenging. However, the support and participation of experienced US anti-nuclear peace lawyers and organizations will significantly help host a people’s tribunal. We request your sustained interest and participation.
We will not give up until a successful people’s tribunal, and the Korean atomic bomb victims receive an official apology and compensation from the US. We are pleased to introduce our purpose and plans for the people’s tribunal. Thank you.