Agent Orange: US Guilty Says Hearing

5-19-09, 9:32 am

Original source: Vietnam News Agency

PARIS – The International People’s Tribunal of Conscience in Paris made its final judgment yesterday, concluding that the use of dioxin by the US military in Vietnam from 1961 to 1971 was a war crime against humanity.

After examining evidence and the testimonies of 27 victims and experts, the tribunal found that the US Government and chemical manufacturers were well aware of the fact that dioxin is one of the most dangerous chemicals known to man, capable of causing prolonged serious consequences not only to humans and the environment but also to the Vietnamese economy.

The tribunal concluded that the US Government was guilty of using dioxin and damaging the environment, defined as 'ecocide.' The chemical companies were also found guilty of colluding with the US Government’s actions.

The tribunal asked the US Government and the chemical companies who manufactured and supplied Agent Orange, to fully compensate victims and their families. The tribunal also demanded they rehabilitate the environment and eradicate any dioxin from Vietnam and its waters, especially hot spots around former US military bases.

To carry out the verdict, the tribunal recommended that a commission on Agent Orange be established to assess the amount of compensation to be allocated to each victim, family and community.

The commission would have to determine the amount needed to provide specialized medical facilities, rehabilitation and other therapeutic services to treat victims and their families.

It would also estimate the cost of studying the contaminated areas and the future cost of restoring the environment. On top of this, the hearing said the Vietnamese State should be compensated for the cost of supporting victims and cleaning up the environment.

The tribunal suggested that the commission be comprised of eminent people in the fields of medicine, science, law, epidemiology, agriculture and ecology together with other representatives from civil society. It said its recommendations should be submitted within a year of its creation.

The amounts defined by the commission would be paid into a trust fund for the victims and their families. The fund would also pay for the restoration of the environment.

More than 1.13 billion euros (US$1.52 billion) a year is now being paid by the US Government to US Vietnam veterans who were also victims of Agent Orange – a figure it was suggested could be used a guide for calculations.

The tribunal’s final judgement will be sent to Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet, US President Barack Obama, UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon, and the Human Rights Committee.

Answering correspondents’ queries at a press conference, judges said that the tribunal aimed at supporting Agent Orange/dioxin victims and condemning the use of chemical weapons around the world.

The judgment was issued after a two-day hearing in Paris.—VNS

Related story: Killing Me Softly: How Agent Orange Murders Vietnam's Children