Évry (France) (AFP)
A French court on Monday dismissed a case brought by an elderly Franco-Vietnamese woman against several agrochemical companies, including Monsanto and Dow Chemical, over the US military’s use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
The court in the Parisian suburbs of Evry ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to judge a case involving the actions of the US government in wartime, according to the judgment seen by AFP.
Tran To Nga, who was born in 1942 in what was then French Indochina, accused chemical companies of causing serious harm to him and others by selling Agent Orange to the US government, who used the poisonous chemical with devastating effect during the war.
The 79-year-old plaintiff, who covered the 1955-1975 war as a journalist, also accused the companies of harming the environment.
Dismissing the case, the court backed the companies’ claim that they were acting “on the orders” of the US government, which was engaged in a “sovereign act.”
Campaign groups estimate four million people in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia have been exposed to 76 million liters (20 million gallons) of Agent Orange sprayed by US forces to destroy ground cover and springs of food in his battle with the North Vietnamese Communist troops between 1962 and 1971.
Vietnam accuses him of having created serious birth defects in 150,000 children.
So far, only military veterans – from the United States, Australia and Korea – have obtained compensation for the after-effects of this highly toxic chemical.
German chemicals giant Bayer, which now owns Monsanto, and the other accused companies have argued they cannot be held responsible for the US military’s use of their product.
Lawyers for Tran argued that the companies should have refused to supply the chemical to the US military.
– ‘Fight for my children’ –
Agent Orange has destroyed plants, polluted soil and poisoned animals, caused cancer and deformities in humans as well as attacks on people’s immune systems, campaign groups say.
Tran To Nga suffers from type 2 diabetes and an extremely rare insulin allergy, which she said was symptomatic of exposure to Agent Orange.
She said she also contracted tuberculosis twice and developed cancer, and that one of her daughters died of a heart defect.
“I am not fighting for myself, but for my children and the millions of victims,” she said.
She filed a lawsuit in 2014 with the support of several rights groups who had hoped to make it a landmark case of “ecocide” – a term used to describe serious crimes against the environment.
© 2021 AFP