Tuesday, 11 October 2011


The famous Hiroshima dome, which survived the blast on 6 August 1945.
I spent the weekend in Osaka, where I delivered the keynote speech to the Japanese Society of International Law on transitional justice and international legal norms. Here is a copy of the text, which I understand will be published soon.
On Sunday, two colleagues (and close friends), Shuichi Furuya and Keiko Ko, took me to Hiroshima. It was something that had been on my personal list of things to do for many years. I think it so important to see places like Hiroshima where atrocities have been perpetrated. Today, Hiroshima is peaceful, and the site where the bomb was dropped is a serene park. There is an exceedingly modest memorial, and an eternal flame. I think the memorial is located directly below the point where the bomb was actually detonated.
Shuichi Furuya and myself at the memorial to the victims of Hiroshima.
We spent most of the time in the museum. Given our contemporary interest in memorialising atrocities, it is of course fascinating to see how this has been done in Hiroshima. Nowhere is it suggested that the use of the bomb was a war crime. The issue is not even discussed. Rather, it is treated as an inevitable consequence of the war which had a terrible human cost and which is not to be repeated. There is a curious, parenthetical reference to the Nanking massacre. The exhibits note the military significance of Hiroshima, adding fuel to the argument that the bombing may have been legitimate.
In 1996, the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion on the use of nuclear weapons. Although it did not totally exclude the possibility, the Court defined a narrow scope involving an extreme case of self defence that could never be extended to Hiroshima.
Some day I will try to get to Nagasaki. It has always seemed to me to be in some ways the worse case of the two, because even if one accepts the need for the Americans to resort to the nuclear bomb, using it a second time was purely gratuitous. Still, Hiroshima is iconic, etched in our minds as the supreme manifestation of the horror of war. Readers of the blog will know the importance that I attach to the human right to peace. My visit to Hiroshima only strengthened this.

Professor Furuya, the sushi chef and his assistants, and myself. Keiko Ko took the photo so she is not in it,

We left Hiroshima in the evening and took the shinkansen (bullet train) back to Osaka, where Professor Furuya and Professor Ko had located a sushi bar near the hotel. We had a wonderful final dinner, and a nice chat with the sushi chef. Japanese hospitality is really unbeatable.
I should add that I also had a very nice visit with Hitomi Takemura, who is one of the doctoral graduates of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, and who is now an assistant professor in a Japanese university.

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