Agent Orange victim's French lawyers seek more evidence

Two of the three French lawyers representing a French-Vietnamese woman in an Agent Orange lawsuit against 26 US chemical companies arrived in HCM City to met other AO victims last Saturday.

Bertrand Repold, with Amelie Lefebvre next to him, shakes hands with a Vietnamese Agent Orange victim at a meeting with a group of victims at the War Remnants Museum in HCM City last Saturday. — VNS Photo Van Dat

The 73-year-old dioxin-affected Tran To Nga is suing the companies that manufactured Agent Orange, the defoliant used by the US during the war in Viet Nam. Lawyers Amelie Lefebvre and Bertrand Repold will represent her.

Meeting Agent Orange victims and visiting the sites where the defoliant was sprayed "will give us more evidence, will and motivation to fight against 19 lawyers" at a court hearing in mid-August, they said.

After meeting and speaking with AO victims at the War Remnants Museum in HCM City, the lawyers said they were motivated by the resilience of the victims.

Nga said the lawyers volunteered to represent her pro bono, only accepting some gifts she brought from Viet Nam.

"All the victims we meet during this trip to Viet Nam will be our strong weapon in court," Lefebvre said.

"Sometimes we feel tired, but the warm support from everybody reminds us of our responsibility. We are confident we can go ahead."

Repold concurred, saying the trip to Viet Nam would be very helpful for pleading before the court.

Nga was a correspondent for the Liberation News Agency, the predecessor of Vietnam News Agency, during the fiercest period of the war. In 1966 and later she lived in areas worst hit by the herbicide, including Cu Chi District in HCM City, Binh Long, and along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

She later gave birth to three children, the eldest of which died of a heart disorder and the second one inherited a blood disease from her.

Nga herself suffers from numerous diseases as a consequence of her exposure to AO, many of which have been recognised by the US government as associated with the toxic chemical.

During the time in Viet Nam, she and the lawyers will visit Cu Chi and Soc Trang Province.

Nga's status as an AO victim and French national have allowed the lawyers to sue the US chemical firms in France, and this could end up benefiting not only Nga but also millions of Vietnamese AO victims.

Nga said she decided to file the suit not for her own benefit but for that of other Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange.

Lefebvre said what is important is not the compensation Nga might get but that the companies should admit their liability, which would benefit the millions of Vietnamese victims.

At the most recent hearing in June, the chemical companies complained about the authenticity of documents and the clarity of the evidence available. about the likely outcome of the lawsuit, Repold said the case is likely to be lengthy due to its complexity and the involvement of many countries.

"The most important trial, with the participation of all parties involved, will not be taking place before end of 2016 or early 2017.

The two lawyers work for France-based law firm William Bourdon & Forestier


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