Việt Nam regrets French court's decision to throw out Agent Orange lawsuit

May 13, 2021 - 17:45
Việt Nam as a country has suffered devastating consequences of wars, including the long-lasting serious impacts of the Agent Orange/dioxin.


In this January 30, 2021 file photo, Trần Tố Nga waves as she delivers a speech during a gathering in support of people exposed to Agent Orange during the American War in Viet Nam, in Paris. — AFP Photo

HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam regrets the French court’s decision to reject the lawsuit of Trần Tố Nga to hold to account several multinational companies that produced and traded the toxic herbicide Agent Orange during the American war in Việt Nam.

Spokesperson for the foreign ministry Lê Thị Thu Hằng made the statement on Thursday in a press briefing held virtually in Hà Nội, in response to questions regarding Việt Nam’s reaction to the decision of the court in Evry, near Paris. The court declined to even hear the case as it claimed to have no jurisdiction over the wartime actions of the US Government, ruling that the US firms were acting on orders from the US Government which was engaged in a “sovereign act”.

Việt Nam as a country has suffered devastating consequences of wars, including the long-lasting and serious impacts of Agent Orange/dioxin, spokesperson Hằng said.

An estimated 4 million Vietnamese people have been exposed to AO/dioxin that the US military dropped in the central and southern region of Việt Nam to clear out forests where they thought northern soldiers could be hiding, while 100,000 children have suffered from deformities.

“We fully support the Agent Orange/dioxin victims in seeking legal responsibility from chemical companies that produced and sold it. We are of the view that these companies have an obligation to redress the consequences that Agent Orange/dioxin has wreaked on Việt Nam,” Hằng said.

Trần Tố Nga, a 79-year-old woman with dual citizenship in Việt Nam and France, has been for the past decade seeking damages from the multinationals in recognition of severe chronic health issues as the result of exposure to the toxin.

Nga said she would continue to file an appeal.

Spokesperson Hằng noted that throughout the trial, the Vietnamese embassy in France has been keeping in contact with Nga and providing necessary support when appropriate.

Earlier on Wednesday, Việt Nam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin released a statement emphasising the court’s decision rejecting Nga’s lawsuit shows that it denied the right of French citizens who suffered damage from foreign legal entities to be recognised by French law.

The statement also mentioned an announcement from Nga’s lawyers in which they said the court applied an obsolete definition of the immunity of jurisdiction principle that contradicted modern principles of international and national law.

Ships monitored

Asked for Việt Nam’s comments on reports claiming that nearly 300 military ships of China have been encroaching waters near Trường Sa (Spratly Islands), Hằng said relevant authorities of Việt Nam “constantly monitor developments in the East Sea and maintain the protection of the country’s sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the country’s waters in line with international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”

The spokesperson also reiterated that Việt Nam has sufficient historical evidence and legal basis to claim sovereignty over the Trường Sa islands, in accordance with international law.

“As a littoral country and a member of the 1982 UNCLOS, Việt Nam is entitled to sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its waters as defined in conformity with 1982 UNCLOS,” Hằng stressed.

Foreign arrival protocol

Regarding questions over whether the complicated COVID-19 developments in several countries might affect policy for foreign arrivals into Việt Nam, spokesperson Hằng said in observance of COVID-19 safety, the country has halted foreign entries, and only allowed in a limited number of categories of arrivals – including foreign investors, technicians, skilled labourers, and business managers – but they all have to strictly comply with existing health protocols.

Currently, Việt Nam is setting limits for foreign arrivals, including returning Vietnamese, as the country is focusing on battling domestic outbreaks, she said.

The foreign ministry continuously keeps updated with the pandemic developments around the world, and works with relevant authorities to adjust or relax entry procedures to realise the dual goals of containing the pandemic and promoting socio-economic development. — VNS