‘We regret court’s decision’

Not giving up: Nga (centre) addressing a press conference at the headquarters of the General Union of Vietnamese of France in Paris a day after she failed in her bid to sue the producers of Agent Orange. — AFP

THE country says it regrets the French court’s decision to reject the lawsuit of Tran To Nga to hold to account several multinational companies that produced and traded the toxic herbicide Agent Orange during the American war in Vietnam.

Spokesperson for the foreign ministry Le Thi Thu Hang made the statement on Thursday in a press briefing held virtually in Hanoi in response to questions regarding Vietnam’s reaction to the decision of the court in Evry, near Paris.

The court declined to even hear the case as it claimed to have no jurisdiction over the wartime actions of the US government, ruling that the US firms were acting on orders from the US government which was engaged in a “sovereign act”.

Vietnam suffered devastating consequences of wars, including the long-lasting and serious impacts of Agent Orange/dioxin, Hang said.

It was estimated that some four million Vietnamese were exposed to Agent Orange/dioxin that the US military dropped in the central and southern region of Vietnam to clear out forests where the Americans thought northern soldiers could be hiding, while 100,000 children have suffered from deformities.

“We fully support the Agent Orange/dioxin victims in seeking legal responsibility from chemical companies that produced and sold it.

“We are of the view that these companies have an obligation to redress the consequences that Agent Orange/dioxin has wreaked on Vietnam, ” Hang said.

Nga, a 79-year-old woman with dual citizenship in Vietnam and France, has been seeking damages for the past decade from the multinationals in recognition of severe chronic health issues as the result of exposure to the toxin.

Nga said she would continue to file an appeal.

Hang noted that throughout the trial, the Vietnamese embassy in France had been keeping in contact with Nga and providing necessary support when appropriate.

On Wednesday, Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin released a statement emphasising the court’s decision rejecting Nga’s lawsuit shows that it denied the right of French citizens who suffered damage from foreign legal entities to be recognised by French law.

The statement also mentioned an announcement from Nga’s lawyers in which they said the court applied an obsolete definition of the immunity of jurisdiction principle that contradicted modern principles of international and national law. — Vietnam News/ANN

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