Struggle for justice for Agent Orange victims to continue

May 07, 2021 - 17:20

Activists are determined as ever to continue the fight for justice for Agent Orange (AO)/dioxin victims in Việt Nam.

Participants at the talk held in HCM City on Saturday. — VNA/VNS Photo 

HCM CITY — Activists are determined as ever to continue the fight for justice for Agent Orange (AO)/dioxin victims in Việt Nam, despite losing a landmark court case.

Participants in a roundtable talk on Saturday, including Vietnamese-French woman Trần Tố Nga, who launched the lawsuit against the US companies that provided the chemical toxins used by the US army during the war in Việt Nam, said they would press on regardless of the court’s rulings.

Yesterday, a French court in the Paris suburb of Evry ruled it did not have the jurisdiction to judge a case involving the wartime actions of the US government, according to the news agency AFP.

The talk in HCM City was part of a project to support Nga’s legal action. She attended the event from France via videoconferencing.

After the lawsuit against the US chemical companies filed by the Vietnam Association for Victims of AO (VAVA) in 2004 ended without the desired result, Nga, born in 1942, sued the firms in the Crown Court of France’s Evry city in 2014.

Nga graduated from a Hà Nội university in 1966 and became a war correspondent for the Liberation News Agency. She worked in some of the most heavily AO/dioxin affected areas in southern Việt Nam, such as Củ Chi, Bến Cát, and along the Hồ Chí Minh Trail, ultimately experiencing contamination herself.

Of her three children, the first died of heart defects and the second suffers from a blood disease. She has also contracted a number of acute diseases.

With the support of several non-governmental organisations, she accused the companies of causing lasting harm to the health of herself, her children, and countless others, and of destroying the environment.

Talking via videoconference, Nga, who is currently in France, said regardless of the ruling to be issued by the court, the 10-year struggle will continue, noting that she and her friends are prepared to keep going for many more years.

The strength of justice and truth will win, she stated.

A former plaintiff in VAVA’s 2004 lawsuit in the US, VAVA Vice President Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Phượng said though the previous lawsuit did not result in success, it left a great impact on the people in the US and the world as a whole.

The fight for justice will continue, she went on, expressing her belief in the final victory. She stressed that this is a historic lawsuit and a victory would become a legal precedent for AO/dioxin victims in Việt Nam and other countries to seek justice for themselves.

Trương Trọng Nghĩa, Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Bar Federation, pointed out that compared to the 2004 lawsuit in the US, Nga’s lawsuit has certain advantages, elaborating that the French court on January 25 announced it has the power and legal grounds to deal with this case.

Besides, a recent lawsuit against a chemical company filed by a farmworker who was exposed to herbicide in France ended in the worker’s favour. This precedent is favourable for Nga’s case.

People in France also support and hope that Nga will win her lawsuit, Nghĩa added.

Tôn Nữ Thị Ninh, Vice President of the Vietnam Peace Committee and President of the HCM City Peace and Development Foundation, stressed the need for persistence since the purpose is not only to seek compensation but also to force the US to admit the truth and its responsibility.

So far, more than 4 million Vietnamese people have been exposed to AO/dioxin while 100,000 children have suffered from deformities. The AO causes lasting harm to humans and the environment. Scientists have found that this substance not only affects those exposed to it but also many following generations, depending on its concentration in the body, according to Vũ Thị Quyền, a lecturer in biology at the Văn Lang University. — VNS