Thursday, August 2, 2012
Prosecutors to investigate criminal charges over Fukushima disaster - AJW by The Asahi Shimbun
After ignoring criminal complaints related to the Fukushima disaster for months, prosecutors finally moved on Aug. 1 toward considering criminal charges against senior government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials accused of responsibility for the crisis.
With pressure growing for people to be brought to account for a catastrophe described by a parliamentary inquiry in July as a “profoundly man-made disaster—that could and should have been foreseen and prevented,” prosecutors took the unusual step of publicly announcing that criminal charges will be investigated.
Sources within the prosecution service said the District Public Prosecutors Offices in Fukushima, Tokyo and Kanazawa are expected to look into charges, including professional negligence resulting in deaths and injuries.
But prosecutors also warned that establishing cases against the officials will face major hurdles. They will have to establish that those named in the criminal accusation were in a position to foresee the accident and prevent it, that the impact on victims resulted from the nuclear accident, and that specific individuals should be held responsible for that damage.
Past failures to make charges stick against officials involved in the Japan Airlines Corp. Flight 123 accident in 1985 and the West Japan Railway Co. crash of 2005 underline the difficulty of establishing negligence.
The publication of the final report of the government’s Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations on July 23, the last of four major investigations into the Fukushima disaster, has cleared the way for prosecutors to consider charges against officials, and a growing pile of criminal complaints and accusations from members of the public connected to the Fukushima accident.
Ruiko Muto, 58, who leads a group of 1,324 complainants from Fukushima Prefecture, hailed the prosecutors’ decision.
“It is a problem that nobody has taken responsibility for such extensive damage. Little progress has been made in looking into what went wrong under these circumstances,” said Muto, who submitted a criminal complaint with Fukushima prosecutors in June. “We expect a thorough investigation.”