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[Presentation] TPNW 2MSP side event "A Call for Justice - Recent Status of Korean Atomic Bomb Victims and the People's Tribunal"

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NGO side event, The Second Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW

Hayoung Bak, Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea (SPARK)

November 27, 2023, New York

 

The International People’s Tribunal to hold the U.S. accountable

 for dropping Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

[Korean]

 

 

The topic of today's side event is the project of the International People's Tribunal to hold the U.S. accountable for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. I will introduce the background, significance, current progress, and future plans of this project, scheduled to take place in New York in 2026.

 

Background

The International People’s Tribunal was conceived with the aim of consoling the atomic bomb victims by clarifying the illegality of the U.S. atomic bombings from the perspective of Korean victims, and contributing to the realization of a Korean peninsula and world without nuclear threats and nuclear confrontation.

 

Koreans were threefold victims of the atomic bombings: Japan's colonial rule and forced mobilization, the U.S. atomic bombings, and the neglect of the Korean government. Korean atomic bomb victims, estimated to number about 70,000, are the second largest in scale after Japanese victims, but they have been marginalized without receiving proper attention from the international community.

 

The efforts to hold the accountability for the 1945 U.S. atomic bombings began with the appeal from the victims during the 9th NPT Review Conference in April 2015. Shim Jin-tae and Kim Bong-dae (The father of Kim Hyung-ryul, a second-generation victim), jointly appealed to representatives of peace organizations from various countries to join in holding the U.S. government responsible for the atomic bombings.

 

Initially Korean A-bomb victims considered filing lawsuits in the U.S. However, faced with legal barriers, they decided to hold a people's tribunal before pursuing legal action.

 

Progress to date: Results of the 1st International Forum

Preliminary international forums are being held for the People's Tribunal. The purpose of the forums is to establish legal grounds to define the U.S. atomic bombings as illegal acts. This will enable the People's Tribunal to bring charges based on a solid legal basis and to issue a ruling that the U.S. nuclear bombings of 1945 were illegal. The forums are being carried out in conjunction with promotional activities to raise awareness of the issue of Korean atomic bomb victims.

 

The first international forum was held in June 2023 in Hapcheon, South Korea. Hapcheon is the region in South Korea with the largest population of Korean atomic bomb victims. It is also known as "Korea's Hiroshima." The first discussion was successfully held with the participation of over 180 people, including Korean atomic bomb victims, NGO groups, and overseas participants from Japan, Europe, and the U.S.

 

The first forum focused on the illegality of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki under the conventional international law and customary international law in 1945. The discussion also examined the political and military implications of the U.S. atomic bombings from the perspective of Korea. The first discussion concluded that the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were illegal under international law in 1945.

 

At the roundtable, participants, including Korean A-bomb victims and NGO groups as well as overseas peace organization—Peace Action, Women Cross DMZ, the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament, and Common Security, and the Japanese Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs—came together to gather opinions on making the People's Tribunal an international joint campaign.

 

We plan to publish a book (in Korean, English, and Japanese) in December that compiles the presentations, discussions, Q&As, and comments from the organizers of the first forum.

 

Future plans: Plans for the 2nd International Forum

The second international forum is scheduled to be held in June 2024 at the Hiroshima International Conference Center in Japan. While the first forum focused on the illegality of the U.S. atomic bombings under the conventional international law and customary international law in 1945, the second forum will focus on the illegality of the U.S. atomic bombings from the perspective of international humanitarian law developed since 1945. This topic is expected to cover the Nuremberg Military Tribunal judgment, the 1963 Shimoda case, the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, the 1996 ICJ advisory opinion, and the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. In addition, the discussion will focus on the impact of nuclear deterrence on peace in the Korean Peninsula/Northeast Asia and the inhumanity of nuclear weapons. It is also expected to gather more widely the opinions of international peace organizations following the roundtable discussions of the first forum. In order to include more advanced content in the second forum, it is essential for lawyers and legal scholars to participate, and it is necessary for Japanese civil society organizations to actively participate as the forum will be held in Hiroshima, Japan.

 

The Significance of the International People's Tribunal, and a Call for Participation

Under the premise that the international legal basis for condemning the U.S. atomic bombings of 1945 as illegal will be secured through two forums, the International People's Tribunal is aiming to be held in New York in 2026 with Korean atomic bomb victims of the first generation as plaintiffs. After the second international forum in Hiroshima in 2024, we plan to accelerate preparations for the People's Tribunal for two years.

 

The People's Tribunal has the primary purpose of restoring the collapsed historical justice by holding the U.S. legally responsible for the atomic bombings of 1945, and restoring the human rights of Korean atomic bomb victims who were affected by Japanese colonial rule and the U.S. atomic bombings.

 

Second, the People's Tribunal aims to establish the illegality of the U.S. atomic bombings in 1945 to secure the basis for condemning all nuclear threats and use as illegal today. The fact that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were illegal under the laws of war in 1945 means that the use and threat of nuclear weapons today are also illegal.

 

Third, the People's Tribunal aims to overcome the nuclear deterrence theory that justifies the use and threat of nuclear weapons by nuclear-weapon states, and contribute to the realization of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a nuclear-free world. The international community is experiencing more intense nuclear confrontation than ever before. Above all, the Korean Peninsula has become a nuclear confrontation field where highly offensive nuclear strategies and forces have clashed sharply, unprecedented since the end of the Cold War. The People's Tribunal will provide a powerful instrument for peace to fight against the majority of political leaders who are obsessed with the illusion of nuclear alliances and nuclear weapons thereby driving humanity to war and annihilation.

 

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force in 2021, is a significant milestone towards a nuclear-free world. However, as evidenced by the Russia-Ukraine war and the "first-use policy" of the U.S and North Korea, the treaty has limitations in preventing the use and threat of nuclear weapons. This is primarily because nuclear-weapon states, including the U.S., and their allies have not joined the treaty. The U.S. is the only country that has ever used nuclear weapons and is the world's leading nuclear power. In this regard, the People's Tribunal, which holds the U.S. accountable for the atomic bombings, will contribute to the realization of a nuclear-free world by preventing another use or threat of nuclear weapons. It will also strengthen and complement the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

 

Holding the U.S. accountable for its legal responsibilities is a challenging task that has not been done in the past 78 years. However, we believe that it is an essential task to accelerate the realization of a nuclear-free world.

 

I take this opportunity to request the participation and support of experienced lawyers, scholars and organizations in the U.S. In particular, the involvement of civil society organizations with extensive international networks is crucial, as the International People's Tribunal will be held in New York.

 

Recently, the Japanese Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Weapons has also expressed its intention to participate in the People's Tribunal project by endorsing its name. I would like to ask many anti-nuclear peace organizations to lend their support and join us as preparatory organizations.

 

We will not waver in our commitment until the People's Tribunal is successfully held and the official apology and compensation from the U.S. government is realized. We ask for your attention and participation in the second international forum to be held in Hiroshima, Japan, and the International People's Tribunal to be held in New York in 2026.

 

Thank you.

  

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