Justice for Tran To Nga and all the victims of Agent Orange-dioxin

Tran To Nga on February 1, 2016.

© Julien Falsimagne
Tran To Nga on February 1, 2016.

On January 25, the lawsuit brought by the former Franco-Vietnamese journalist and activist against nineteen chemical companies that produced or marketed Agent Orange will be held in Evry.

Tribune. 59 years old. More than 59 years already since the first application of Agent Orange-dioxin, a powerful defoliant spilled on the Vietnamese and Laotian jungle on August 10, 1961 by the American army. Even today, the effects of Agent Orange-dioxin have repercussions on the Vietnamese population and the environment in the most total inequity. With nearly 80 million liters of herbicides spilled and more than 2,500,000 hectares contaminated, this spraying destroyed 20% of the forests in southern Vietnam and polluted 400,000 hectares of agricultural land. Are added the destruction of more than a million hectares of tropical forest and the disappearance of an abundant fauna.

Agent Orange-dioxin, in addition to having destroyed part of the Vietnamese jungle, has been shown to be very toxic to humans. Its manufacturing derivative, dioxin, is teratogenic and lipophilic: it accumulates in fat and causes serious malformations in newborns. Up to 4.8 million people have been directly exposed to the defoliant and more than 3 million are still suffering the consequences, according to the Vietnamese Association of Victims of Agent Orange-dioxin (Vava). Hundreds of thousands of children, 3e and 4e post-war generations, live with these malformations (absence of limbs, blindness, deafness, external tumor), not to mention miscarriages, stillbirths and premature births which are accentuated in the most affected regions.

A lawsuit brought by Tran To Nga that has lasted since 2014

History has obscured this chemical war, yet the most important in human history, by presenting Agent Orange-dioxin as one weapon among others. The effects of Agent Orange-dioxin, a “Insidious, silent, invisible phenomenon, which would unfold over several decades” (source), spread over time and generations as it fades from collective memory. Bringing this subject to the attention of the greatest number is the long road that Tran To Nga has undertaken, so that this crime does not go unpunished.

Since 2014, the year in which Tran To Nga lodged a complaint with the Judicial Court of Evry (Essonne), the procedure has progressed slowly but surely. It was made possible by a law authorizing a French national to prosecute a foreign natural or legal person for acts committed outside of France. Through its dual nationality, its status as a victim of Agent Orange-dioxin, Tran To Nga meets the necessary conditions to file a complaint against the American companies that have produced or delivered these phytosanitary products.

On January 25, among the defendants will be present 19 of the 26 firms assigned having manufactured or delivered Agent Orange, in particular Dow Chemical and Bayer-Monsanto. Tran To Nga is defended by William Bourdon, famous for having pleaded the cause of Chilean victims of the dictatorship of General Pinochet or during the Rwandan genocide, and his colleagues Bertrand Repolt and Amélie Lefebvre. In front of them, around thirty lawyers defend the companies responsible for having produced or delivered Agent Orange-dioxin to the US military. Six years. This is the time it took to finally arrive at the pleadings that could lead to the conviction of these companies.

A responsibility that is slow to be recognized

For forty-five years, neither the American government, nor the makers of Agent Orange-dioxin have recognized their responsibility vis-à-vis the Vietnamese victims. While the American veterans were compensated to the tune of 180 million dollars as early as 1984, no recognition of a legal nature resulted for the Vietnamese victims who were dismissed in 2009 by the Supreme Court of the United States.

The voices of Vietnamese victims, muzzled by the lack of legal means, are still not heard. The war remains asymmetric even in the treatment of victims, where Tran To Nga, Franco-Vietnamese, journalist in direct contact with the defoliant during the Vietnam War, has become a symbol of resistance.

A fight for environmental justice

Ecocide, understood as “The permanent and irremediable destruction of an ecosystem”, a notion born after the Vietnam War and the use of Agent Orange-dioxin, not only destroys the earth, but also the people inhabiting it. From these wars against bodies and soils, we could cite the massive use of chlordecone (toxic pesticide) in banana plantations in Guadeloupe and Martinique from the 70s to the 90s, the nuclear tests of the 60s which made at least 30,000 Algerian victims, those in French Polynesia from 1966 to 1996 …

Ecocide connects people in their demands for environmental justice. This environmental justice must be social, racial and united to lead to repair, the reaffirmation of peoples’ sovereignty over their lands and the reappropriation of ecosystems.

The challenges of a historic trial

As with the American lawsuits against Roundup (Monsanto’s flagship product), several of the incriminated companies have allegedly offered Tran To Nga financial compensation, to avoid real legal proceedings. This time around, money won’t buy peace. Tran To Nga wants to obtain condemnation of the companies so that it makes jurisprudence for all the victims of Agent Orange-dioxin.

The ecocide committed during the Vietnam War reminds us of the intrinsic link between ecocide and genocide, redefines the terms “health scandal”, “weapon of war” as “crime”. The success of Nga’s trial will never be limited to its own redress. It extends to the legal recognition of the liability of companies for the victims of Agent Orange but also to the invention of a new case law that can be apprehended for all victims of chemical weapons and pesticides.

We therefore call for massive support for Tran To Nga in this trial by relaying this forum and participating in the mobilization. Monday, January 25, 2021 is just a stopover. Tran To Nga’s fight will still be long and painful: she will need us by her side until justice is served.

Justice for all victims of Agent Orange-dioxin!

First signatories:

LIVE Association

Stop Monsanto-Bayer Collective

Zero Chlordecone Zero Poison Collective

Combat Monsanto

Friends of the Earth France

League of Human Rights (LDH)

Our business to all

We want poppies

SOS Racism


Union Syndicale Solidaires

Youth For Climate Paris

Sapphire Aït Ouarabi, Vice-president of SOS Racisme

Julien Bayou, National Secretary EELV

Valérie Cabanes, International lawyer, author of A new law for the land, to put an end to ecocide

Eric Coquerel, Member of Parliament for Seine-Saint-Denis (LFI)

Daniel Cueff, Mayor of Langouët

Camille Etienne, Activist at We are ready

Malcom Ferdinand, Researcher at CNRS

Grace Ly, Author, director, co-creator of the Kiffe ta race podcast

Akim Omiri, Humorist

Fatima Ouassak, Anti-racist militant

Jessica Forgotten, Comic book author

Eric Piolle, Mayor of Grenoble

Dilnur Reyhan, President of the Uyghur Institute of Europe

Maxime de Rostolan, Environmental entrepreneur and activist

Francois Ruffin, Member of the Somme (LFI)

Marie Toussaint, Co-founder Notre Affaire à Tous, Member of the European Parliament EELV

Mathilde Panot, Vice-President of the La France insoumise parliamentary group

Find all the signatories of this text on this page.

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