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US Federal court ruling comes under fire

by VOV News

Judge Jack Weinstein of the US Federal court in Brooklyn District announced on Thursday that the on-going lawsuit filed by Vietnamese Agent Orange/Dioxin victims against 37 US chemical companies was dismissed.

US chemical companies must be responsible: FM spokesperson

Immediately the result received strong opposition from the public in and outside the country.

Vietnamese people are indignant at the ruling, said Foreign Minister spokesperson Le Dzung in response to domestic and foreign media workers’ question on Vietnam’s reaction to the ruling.

Mr Dzung said on Friday no matter what the court ruling is, it cannot change the truth that Agent Orange/Dioxin used by the US troops during the American war in Vietnam caused serious consequences to humans and the environment of Vietnam.

More than 40 years have elapsed, yet the consequences of the chemicals have continued to affect Vietnam’s socio-economics. This has been clearly stated by Vietnamese and American scientists through their studies. Millions of AO/Dioxin victims contracted serious illnesses and tens of thousands of their children were born with deformities. These victims have been living a hard life both physically and spiritually.

The lawsuit filed by the Vietnamese Agent Orange/Dioxin victims was a justifiable move and it is US chemical companies who must be held responsible for these victims, said Mr Dzung.

"We believe that the struggle for justice by the victims will continue to receive broader support from the international community, including US individuals and organisations," said Mr Dzung.

Vietnamese organisations voice opposition

"It is an unjust ruling", said the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations, the Vietnam Peace Committee, the Vietnam Committee for Solidarity and Co-operation with Asia, Africa and the Latin America and the Vietnam Fund for Peace and Development in their joint statement released on Friday.

The statement says: "The Federal Court ruling shows the irresponsibility towards the sufferings of millions of AO victims and their families in Vietnam. It runs counter to the criteria and principles of human rights and justice and pays no heed to the aspirations of the Vietnamese people and the majority of people of conscience in the US and the world as well."

Professor Nguyen Trong Nhan, vice president of the Vietnam Association of Agent Orange/Dioxin Victims said Judge Weinstein did not respect justice and defied the truth in making the decision.

In a statement released the same day, the association said it will continue to pursue the lawsuit till the end, not only for the life of Vietnamese AO victims but also the interests of AO victims in other countries.

For conscience and justice, the statement says, the association calls on the governments, international organisations, international non-organisations, scientists, lawyers, social activities and peace and justice lovers across the world to help and support Vietnam in the lawsuit.

Answering a VOV correspondent from New York, Professor Ngo Thanh Nhan, a member of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign (VAORRC) said he did not agree with Judge Weinstein’s ruling that at the court the Vietnamese victims did not prove the serious effects of AO on their health. He said Judge Weinstein himself understood very clearly the harmful effects of AO following a similar lawsuit filed by American war veterans in 1984.

Commenting on the judge’s ruling, lawyer William Goodman representing the plaintiffs, said the judge made a mistake. He said the use of this chemical in Vietnam was a scandal from the beginning and the failure of the Federal Court to rectify the mistake is another stage in the scandal.

He said lawyers representing the Vietnamese AO victims will appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeal, and the lawsuit should only be decided by the US Supreme Court.

He affirmed that the Vietnam Association for Agent Orange/Dioxin Victims has a legal right to represent the Vietnamese AO victims in the lawsuit and that it is not tied down by US laws on time limitation of suing. Thus, Vietnamese AO victims can appeal to higher courts in accordance with US laws.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Moore, representing the plaintiff's lawyer delegation, said although the war has been over for 30 years, Vietnamese victims affected by Dioxin from the AO spraying by the US army during the war are still denied justice. He affirmed that he will pursue the lawsuit in order to bring justice to Vietnamese AO victims.

L. Spradley, a lecturer of Ohio University, who is in Vietnam with US students to explore the daily life of the Vietnamese AO victims, expressed her indignation at judge Weinstein ruling. She said she hoped that the Vietnamese victims will win the case and that when returning to the US, she will make public pictures featuring the harmful effects of the Agent Orange on children, war veterans and the environment in Vietnam.

She also hoped that the Vietnamese AO victims will receive stronger support after the ruling.

Immediately after the judge's decision was announced, the VAORRC called on all American organisations and people to increase their support for Vietnamese AO victims in their continued appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeal, and demand that the US government take legal and moral responsibility to compensate the Vietnamese AO victims.

Dave Cline, a representative of American Veterans For Peace, said that American veterans will be obliged to heal the wounds caused by AO/Dioxin in the war and to seek ways to bring justice to those who are suffering from the horrific effects of toxic chemicals.

He said after a long period of struggle by American veterans, US Congress in 1991 conceded that AO/dioxin had effects on American veterans who joined the war in Vietnam. He demanded that Vietnamese AO victims be treated as American Veterans affected by AO/Dioxin and called on American veterans to take part in a widespread campaign to get justice for Vietnamese AO victims.

International conference supports AO victims

A two-day conference on the aftermath of Agent Orange (AO) opened in Paris on Friday, drawing the participation of around 250 scientists, war veterans, and social, political and legal activists from many countries.

The Vietnamese delegation is headed by Trinh Ngoc Thai, Vice President of the Vietnam - France Friendship Association.

Participants focused their discussions on six key issues including the history of chemical war, its epidemiological aftermath and impacts on human health, the ecosystem's current state and prospects of improving it, socio-economic consequences, legal issues and assistance given to Vietnam by public and private organisations.

In particular, they will discuss the appeals from international organisations and other foreign countries, which support the lawsuit filed by Vietnamese AO/Dioxin victims against US chemical firms.

On March 9, a press conference was held in Paris to announce the official establishment of an international committee in support of Vietnamese AO/Dioxin victims. At the conference, many French and foreign journalists raised their doubts about the poor attitude of AO/Dioxin producers and purchasers. Many proposed a lawsuit against the US Government because it had decided to allow the use of the toxic chemicals. They also called on US journalists to support Vietnamese victims and awaken human conscience of those who produced or used dioxin.

©heal toxics, 2003
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