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Japan must step up efforts to solve human rights fallout from Fukushima disaster: UN experts

11 March 2021

Unofficial translation: Japanese 日本語仮訳 (PDF)

GENEVA (11 March 2021) – UN experts said today contaminated water still remaining at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant poses major environmental and human rights risks and any decision to discharge it into the Pacific Ocean cannot be an acceptable solution.

“Ten years after the tragic disaster thousands of people are still suffering the grave consequences of contamination which continues to affect their physical and mental health, livelihood and quality of life,” the experts said.

“We have witnessed substantive efforts by Japanese authorities for overcoming the consequences but more needs to be done. Japan’s response needs to be in full accordance with its human rights obligations.”

The independent UN experts said discharging contaminated water into the Pacific would be a failure to uphold human rights, including the human rights of children exposing them to further risks inside and outside Japan. “The primary source of radioactivity remains the melted nuclear fuel or corium located at the three Fukushima Daiichi reactors. Fresh groundwater entering the site continues to become contaminated as a result,” the experts said.

They said more than 40,000 Fukushima citizens remain evacuees yet the government did not acknowledge them as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). This number includes so-called voluntary evacuees from areas that were not officially designated evacuation areas. As a consequence, financial, housing, medical and other support is not made available to IDPs to the level required. Many evacuees continue to feel they are being forced to return to areas that are unsafe.

“The day-to-day struggles of IDPs should lie at the heart of Government action concerning the lifting of evacuation orders, attributing social benefits and ensuring the regular monitoring of their health condition.”

“We recall that Japan has a continuing duty to prevent safety risks and exposure, especially the exposure of children and other vulnerable groups to radiation. Children are more sensitive to radiation and are at higher risk of radiation-related cancers of certain tissues. They are also more likely to experience higher external and internal radiation exposure levels than adults,” the experts said.

“The opacity surrounding the nature of the hazards posed by the contaminated water and the impact of its disposal as well as the lack of public participation in decision making processes only add to the dismay of affected populations. Local communities, civil society organisations lack meaningful involvement in consultations on the proposed avenue of disposal of water,” the experts said.

“We call upon Japanese authorities to intensify their efforts at preventing risks, protecting the affected population, including children from adverse effects of radiation exposure, in accordance with their international human rights obligations.

“We believe that following best available scientific evidence, ensuring transparency of decisions and seeking public opinions can be the best guides for addressing the heavy burden of the disaster,” the experts said. 

The UN independent experts have communicated their concerns related to the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster to the Japanese authorities in the following communication letters:

JPN 1/2021 of 13.01.21: JPN 1/2020 of 20.04.2020: JPN 6/2018 of 05.09.2018: JPN 5/2018 of 28.06.2018: JPN 2/2017 of 20.03.2017

The experts: Mr.Marcos A. Orellana, Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights, Mr. Michael Fakhri,  Special Rapporteur on Right to Food, Ms.Cecilia Jimenez-Damary,  Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Ms. Tlaleng MofokengSpecial Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health, Mr. Pedro Arrojo-Agudo Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation
The 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 organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For media enquiries, please contact Lilit Nikoghosyan  (+41 22 917 9936 /  [email protected]).
For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / [email protected]).
Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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