French court rejects Vietnamese woman’s claim in landmark Agent Orange lawsuit

A French court on May 10 dismissed a case by an elderly French-Vietnamese woman against several agrochemical companies over the use by the US military of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
May 11, 2021 | 07:56
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Tran To Nga says she will appeal the court's ruling. (Photo: AP)
Tran To Nga says she will appeal the court's ruling. Photo: AP

The court in the Paris suburb of Evry ruled that it did not have the jurisdiction to judge a case involving the wartime actions of the US government, the ruling seen by AFP said.

Tran To Nga, a former journalist born in 1942 in what was then French Indochina, accused the chemicals firms, including Monsanto and Dow Chemical, of causing grievous harm to her and others by selling Agent Orange to the US government, which used it to devastating effect in the war.

She also accused them of causing damage to the environment.

Dismissing the case the court said that the companies were acting "on the orders" of the US government, which was engaged in a "sovereign act."

NGOs estimate that four million people in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were exposed to the 76 million liters (20 million gallons) of Agent Orange sprayed by US forces to destroy ground cover and food sources in its battle with North Vietnamese troops between 1962 and 1971.

A U.S. helicopter sprays Agent Orange on a dense jungle area in the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War. Photo by Shutterstock.
A US helicopter sprays Agent Orange on a dense jungle area in the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War. Photo by Shutterstock

Tran To Nga suffers from typical Agent Orange effects, including type 2 diabetes and an extremely rare insulin allergy.

One of her daughters died of a malformation of the heart.

The multinationals have argued that they could not be held responsible for the use the American military made of their product.

According to the Vietnam News Agency (VNA), Nga said she was not surprised at the ruling as she had prepared for this. The woman stated that she will appeal immediately, kicking off a new journey no matter how difficult it will be.

Nga emphasised she will be at the forefront of a march in Paris on May 15 to oppose Monsanto and reiterate the lawsuit.

The strength of justice and the truth will win, she said.

Millions of AO victims' descendants are living with deformities and diseases as a direct result of the chemical’s effects.(Photo: VNA)
Millions of AO victims' descendants are living with deformities and diseases as a direct result of the chemical’s effects.Photo: VNA

The case was filed in 2014 after another lawsuit against the US chemical companies filed by the Vietnam Association for Victims of AO (VAVA) in 2004 had not ended with a desired result.

So far, only military veterans – from the US, Australia and Korea – have won compensation for the after-effects of the highly toxic chemical, according to Al Jazeera.

German chemicals giant Bayer, which now owns Monsanto, and the other companies accused argued they could not be held responsible for the use that the American military made of their product.

But Nga’s lawyers argued that the companies should have refused to supply the US military with the chemical.

Agent Orange destroyed plants, polluted the soil, poisoned animals, and caused cancer and malformations in humans as well as attacking people’s immune systems, campaign groups say.

Nga had filed her lawsuit with the backing of several rights groups that had hoped to turn it into a landmark case of “ecocide” – a term used to describe serious crimes against the environment./.

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