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Fukushima: Japan must not ignore human rights obligations on nuclear waste disposal – UN experts

GENEVA (9 June 2020) – UN human rights experts* today urged the Japanese Government to delay any decision on the ocean-dumping of nuclear waste water from the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi until after the COVID-19 crisis has passed and proper international consultations can be held.

"We are deeply concerned by reports that the Government of Japan has accelerated its timeline for the release of radioactive waste water into the ocean without time or opportunity for meaningful consultations," the independent experts said. Credible sources indicate the postponement of the 2020 Olympics enabled the Government's new decision-making process for release of the waste.

They said the Government's short extension for the current public consultation was grossly insufficient while COVID-19 measures limited opportunities for input from all affected communities in Japan, as well as those in neighbouring countries, including indigenous peoples.

"COVID-19 must be not be used as a sleight of hand to distract from decisions that will have profound implications for people and the planet for generations to come," the experts said. "There will be grave impacts on the livelihood of local Japanese fisher folk, but also the human rights of people and peoples outside of Japan."

They said there was no need for hasty decisions because adequate space was available for additional storage tanks to increase capacity, and the public consultation originally was not expected to be held until after the 2020 Olympics.

"We call on the government of Japan to give proper space and opportunity for consultations on the disposal of nuclear waste that will likely affect people and peoples both inside and outside of Japan. We further call on the Government of Japan to respect the right of indigenous peoples to free prior and informed consent and to respect their right to assemble and associate to form such a consent."

The experts have communicated their concerns to the Government of Japan. UN experts have previously raised concerns over the increase of exposure levels to radiation deemed "acceptable" for the general public, and for the use of vulnerable workers in efforts to clean up after the nuclear disaster.

ENDS

*The experts: Mr. Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes; Mr. Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; and Mr. José Francisco Calí Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

For further information and media requests please contact Mr. Alvin Gachie (+41 22 917 9971 / agachie@ohchr.org) or write to srtoxicwaste@ohchr.org

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / rrosariodesouza@ohchr.org) and John Newland (mediaconsultant2@ohchr.org)

Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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