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Tiếng Việt

The Paris Court of Appeal opens a hearing on Ms. Tran To Nga's lawsuit relating to Agent Orange

On the morning of May 7, 2024, the Paris Court of Appeals opened a hearing for the lawsuit of Ms. Tran To Nga, an 82-year-old Vietnamese - French citizen, against 14 American chemical companies, including Monsanto, for producing and supplying dioxin-contained herbicides (Agent Orange) for the US military during the Vietnam War. It is expected that a decision will be made by the Court on August 22.

In 2014, Nga, a victim of Agent Orange, filed a lawsuit at Évry Court in the suburbs of Paris. The case against the American chemical corporations was brought to trial in 2021. However, the Évry Court dismissed the case, holding that these businesses were subject to "immunity," because they acted upon a request from the US government.

Therefore, the Évry Court does not have sufficient jurisdiction to judge the actions of another sovereign state.

The hearing at the Paris Court of Appeals started at 9 a.m. and lasted more than 3 hours.

Before the judges, two lawyers who volunteered to help Nga in the lawsuit, including Bertrand Repolt and William Bourdon, rejected the judicial immunity of American chemical companies. They argued that: those businesses were completely autonomous to make their own decisions on production, and were aware of the dangers of dioxin, but had no warning or preventive measures.

Therefore, these companies cannot "hide" behind the shadow of the US State and then completely deny their responsibility. Attorney William Bourdon emphasized that "the right to trial" is the fundamental right of a victim like Nga and hoped that the case would be brought back to the jurisdiction of the Évry Court so that detailed records could be mentioned. Meanwhile, lawyers for American chemical companies completely denied their clients' accountability, asserting that they only complied with the meticulous and technical requirements of the US military during wartime and sometimes they were requisitioned.

Talking with the press about the trial at the Paris Court of Appeal, Attorney Bertrand Repolt said that it is impossible to "equate the role of American companies with that of the American State. In fact, American chemical companies were autonomous and self-determined in the production of Agent Orange. They were aware of the high toxicity of the product, but had no intention of modifying the ingredients and still supplied it to the US military. Therefore, they must hold accountability for their products and it cannot be argued that they all acted at the direction of the US government and are subject to immunity".

Repolt emphasized that “Here we are not talking about judging a certain state, but simply evaluating the effectiveness of implementing commitments from American chemical corporations. And I want to repeat that Agent Orange is not a weapon allowed to be used in war”.

 It is expected that the Paris Court of Appeal will make a decision on August 22, 2024. If the court rules in favor of Nga, the Évry Court will have to hear Nga's claim for damages. If not, the plaintiff will continue to appeal to the Court of Appeal (Supreme Court).

 Sharing with those who came to support the lawsuit, Nga said: I know that this fight will last longer. Even though my health is getting worse, what I hope is that through this lawsuit, more and more people will know about the victims of Agent Orange. I would like to invite all of you and all Americans to come to Vietnam, so that you can see with your own eyes the millions of victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam. It was you who gave me more motivation and confidence.

 Attending the hearing, representatives of the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin expressed admiration for Nga's will in suing American chemical corporations. The Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin always supports and accompanies her in this fight.

Previously on May 4, more than 200 people, including overseas Vietnamese and French, participated in the campaign to support Nga before the hearing of the Paris Court of Appeals.

The presence of some French parliamentarians and the press also shows that public opinion in France is very interested and supports Nga in this lawsuit.

More about the lawsuit

Ms. Tran To Nga, a Vietnamese French, was born in 1942 in Soc Trang province and was a reporter for the Liberation News Agency, suffering from many diseases as a result of Agent Orange/dioxin. Medical tests showed that the dioxin concentration in her blood was higher than the prescribed standard.

Nga prepared for 4 years from 2009 to 2013 for the lawsuit. In May 2013, the Évry Criminal Court approved her petition to sue 26 American chemical companies. In April 2014, the court opened the first session requiring the presence of 19 American chemical companies that produced chemicals used in the Vietnam War (many companies had dissolved).

Nga's lawsuit is a historic and special one. She is the only person who can represent Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange to sue because she meets three conditions: being a French citizen of Vietnamese origin, living in the only country with laws that allow opening international lawsuits to protect French citizens against another country, and being a victim of Agent Orange.

On May 10, 2021, the Évry Criminal Court dismissed her lawsuit against chemical companies, including Monsanto & Dow Chemical, that provided Agent Orange to the US military for use in Viet Nam's war. The Court said it had no jurisdiction to hear a case related to the wartime actions of the US Government. The companies sued acted at the request of the US Government, a “sovereign” entity.

However, Nga and three French lawyers, who volunteered to help her, have pursued the lawsuit for many years, and continued to appeal. The Paris Court of Appeal held a hearing on May 7, 2024 and is expected to reach a conclusion on August 22, 2024./.


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