A-Bomb Survivors Celebrate Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

People celebrate in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, western Japan, on Oct. 25, 2020, after the ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by 50 countries, paving the way for its entry into force on Jan. 22. (Kyodo)

(Editor’s note: Hibakusha refers to the group of people affected by the 1945 nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki)

A-bomb survivors and peace-loving people in Japan celebrated the news that the first-ever UN treaty banning nuclear weapons will go into effect in January next year.

Three years after being adopted in the UN in 2017, the international accord on October 24 obtained the 50 ratifications required for it to enter into force with Honduras being the 50th country to endorse the treaty. It will become effective on January 22, 2021.

A Nagasaki civil group promoting the Hibakusha-led anti-nuke international signature-collection campaign on October 25 held a rally in Nagasaki’s peace memorial park to welcome the 50th ratification and renew their determination to eliminate nuclear weapons. Around 200 people including members of five Hibakusha groups in Nagasaki and Nagasaki City Mayor Taue Tomihisa took part in the rally.

On behalf of the organizer, Tanaka Shigemitsu, who heads one of the five Hibakusha groups, with tears of joy said, “We Hibakusha are all glad that we are still alive to witness this great day at last.”

On the same day in Hiroshima, seven local Hibakusha groups also hosted a rally to celebrate the 50th ratification. Around 200 people, including Hibakusha, local residents, and municipal heads gathered in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome.

Sakuma Kunihiko, who serves as a representative director of one of the seven Hibakusha groups, pointed out that nuclear weapons states can no longer justify the concept of nuclear deterrence. Noting that more than 12 million people signed the petition in support of Hibakusha’s appeal for elimination of nuclear weapons, Sakuma said, “Having in mind that so many people worldwide supported our petition, we will work to further increase public opposition to nuclear weapons in order to realize a world without nuclear weapons after the anti-nuke treaty enters into force.”

Hiroshima City Mayor Matsui Kazumi delivered a speech and said that 8,000 members of the international network Mayors for Peace headed by Matsui will urge leaders of their countries to work for a nuclear-free world.

The Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo) and the Japan Council against A & H Bombs (Japan Gensuikyo) issued statements in reaction to the scheduled entry into force of the UN N-ban treaty.

Hidankyo in its statement said that the enforcement of the UN treaty will open up a road leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons. It demanded that the Japanese government and Diet sign and ratify the treaty immediately. Hidankyo said, “We will keep striving to create a world without nuclear weapons and war.”

The Gensuikyo statement stressed that the number of ratifications reached 50 thanks to joint efforts made by Hibakusha, peace activists in Japan and across the globe, and governments calling for a legal ban and the elimination of nuclear weapons. Seeking to push the Japanese government to sign and ratify the treaty, Gensuikyo expressed its determination to promote a single-issue grassroots movement to achieve this.

This article was originally published in Japan Press Weekly