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August 2011, Week 4

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Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin: 'Agent Orange in
Vietnam was a crime against humanity'

Appeal of the Second International Conference of
Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin

Hanoi, Socialist Republic of Vietnam

http://links.org.au/node/2457

August 9, 2011 -- The Second International Conference
of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin, held in Hanoi from
August 8 to 9, 2011, included participants from around
the world: Agent Orange victims, victims of other toxic
chemicals, scientists, lawyers and social activists.
The conference is a significant and important historic
event, marking the 50th anniversary of the first
spraying of the toxic chemical Agent Orange (1961-1971)
by the US forces in Vietnam and Indochina.

The delegates to the conference agree that:

During the Vietnam War, from 1961 to 1971, US forces
through Operation Ranch Hand sprayed nearly 80 million
litrrs of herbicides over South Vietnam, of which 61%
was Agent Orange containing at least 366kg of dioxin,
the most toxic substance known to science.

Since the First International Conference of Victims of
Agent Orange in 2006, there has been greater public
understanding and awareness of the dangers of Agent
Orange/dioxin to humans and to the environment. More
diseases have been officially recognised as being due
to exposure to Agent Orange. Along with the Vietnamese
people, many others around the world have become
victims of this toxic weapon of mass destruction.
Soldiers in the US, South Korea, Australia and New
Zealand were exposed during the time they fought in
Vietnam, and now their children and grandchildren are
suffering as well. People in the US, Canada, South
Korea, Puerto Rico, Australia, New Zealand and other
areas were exposed because they lived near or worked in
areas where the US forces stored, buried, manufactured,
tested or experimented with Agent Orange as part of
their war in Vietnam.

Because of dioxin-related damage to their endocrine,
immune and reproductive systems, victims of Agent
Orange suffer from multiple health conditions, some of
which are quickly lethal and others which doom people
to a life of horrific misery. Due to these diseases,
many have been denied the most basic of human rights -
especially the right to life, and the pursuit of
happiness. Because of their inability to work and
bearing the costs of medical treatment, most victims of
Agent Orange everywhere are very poor.

However, because Agent Orange was intentionally
directed against the Vietnamese people, they are
subject to the most onerous conditions. 4.8 million
Vietnamese people directly sprayed repeatedly over
extended periods of time were subject to multiple
sources of exposure. The proportion of old people,
women and children, who are especially susceptible to
dioxin, is particularly high in Vietnam. In Vietnam, an
enormous number of children continue to be born with
Agent Orange-related birth defects. Now, a fourth
generation of Agent Orange victims is being born.
Because of this danger, in effect many women have been
denied the human right to bear children. Agent Orange
not only harmed human beings and devastated the
environment of Vietnam during the war but also
continued its devastation after the war.

Dioxin dumped in the soil continues to damage the
environment and sicken the people in and around several
"hot spots". Causing deforestation of nearly 3 million
hectares of land, during the war, especially in coastal
areas, Agent Orange has damaged not only the
environment in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia but also the
regional environment. It has and continues to have
severe consequences for people in many areas of the
world.

The use of Agent Orange in the war in Vietnam is a war
crime and a crime against humanity. Its consequences
are passed from generation to generation. It challenges
us to end, once and for all, the use of chemical
weapons and any weapons of mass destruction anywhere
today.

Humanity's concern about the affects of chemical
warfare, the threat of accidents at chemical
manufacturing plants and the looming environmental
disaster due biochemical engineering is increasing. The
agony of those exposed to Agent Orange is central to
this consciousness and international solidarity with
Agent Orange victims' struggle for justice is growing.

Call to action

Therefore, the delegates to the conference hereby call
upon:

1) Solidarity

All victims of Agent Orange, whatever their nationality
or circumstances of exposure, should unite more closely
and earnestly to act for our common interests. Further,
to demonstrate our solidarity with victims of other
weapons of mass destruction such as the atomic bomb and
depleted uranium, all the victims and their supporters
should work together in unity and coordinate actions.
Only together, can we be effective, powerful and
successful in achieving justice!

2) Organise

We ask all of humanity, all governments, organisations
and individuals, whatever their social or political
position, to take immediate action to support all
victims of Agent Orange, with particular emphasis on
those in Vietnam. In every country, and in every
region, we should set up organisations and develop
specific programs for mobilising material resources in
whatever form and for making our voices heard in all
available forums in support of the struggle of the
Vietnamese Agent Orange victims for justice.

3) Study and remediation

Scientists, public health and environmental experts,
especially from the United States, should focus on
studying the specific health and environmental dangers
of Agent Orange/dioxin and possibilities for
remediation. This is very urgent in order to help
victims whose time is running out, and in order to
avoid similar disasters for future generations.

4) UN ban on weapons and war crimes

The world community in general, the United Nations and
each government in particular should rapidly promulgate
new measures to more effectively prevent all acts in
violation of international laws prohibiting war crimes
and crimes against humanity.

5) US government and chemical manufacturers to accept
responsibility

The US government and chemical manufacturers of Agent
Orange, particularly Monsanto and Dow Chemical, should
accept their responsibility and engage in greater and
fuller efforts to work with the Vietnamese people and
government to clean up the existing "hot spots" and to
provide comprehensive and meaningful assistance to the
victims of Agent Orange and their families in Vietnam
in a more practical and effective manner. Because
little of the monies appropriated by the US Congress
has actually reached the victims, funds intended for
the victims should be given to Vietnamese NGOs like the
Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin
(VAVA) so that they actually go to those who need
assistance most. The need for hospitals, clinics and
respite homes for the victims and their parents, is
overwhelming - many of the victims require 24-hour care
and their elderly parents who are doing the caring also
need help.

6) Disclose locations of Agent Orange sites

The US government and all governments that have allowed
the use of Agent Orange for any purpose during the
Vietnam war years, should publicly disclose all the
locations where Agent Orange was used, buried or
dumped.

7) Partner with VAVA

The Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent
Orange/Dioxin is the legal and moral representative of
Vietnam's Agent Orange victims and acts as a
non-governmental organisation representing the
interests of these victims throughout Vietnam. To hear
their voices and to help Vietnamese victims effectively
and specifically, people of good will and compassion
should partner with VAVA and assist it programatically
and materially, contacting VAVA through its website,
http://www.vava.org.vn.

Now, 50 years since the first use of Agent Orange in
Vietnam, the delegates of the conference declare again
that the needs of the victims are urgent, requiring
immediate action!

Half a century is too long to wait for justice!

We pledge to work together to make sure that justice
delayed will no longer be justice denied! Agent Orange
victims to continue suing US chemical producers

VietNamNet Bridge - Senior lieutenant-general Nguyen
Van Rinh, chair of the Vietnam Association for Victims
of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA), says that Agent Orange
victims who were born in peace are preparing to sue US
chemical firms.

Why lodge a new lawsuit?

"The first lawsuit was rejected by the US court. If we
pursue that case, they will reject it again for sure.
The rejection is unfair and violates human rights.
American veterans enjoy Agent Orange allowances,
totalling billions of US dollar a year (around $13.5
billion in 2010) but Vietnamese Agent Orange victims
are neglected. Not only Agent Orange victims in Vietnam
but also victims in Japan and veterans in South Korea
are ignored.

"We are determined to seek for justice. We are
researching US laws and asking for assistance from
excellent lawyers in the world, including American
lawyers, for the new lawsuit. The new lawsuit is about
to be lodged."

Who are the plaintiffs in the second lawsuit?

"In the first lawsuit, plaintiffs were veterans who
were infected with Agent Orange. In the new case, they
will be civilians who were born in peace time but they
are disabled because of Agent Orange.

"This is a civil lawsuit of several plaintiffs.
Individuals will hire lawyers. They are VAVA's members
so our association will help them in the case."

Do the plaintiffs and VAVA see difficulties in this
case?

"It is surely to be difficult but we are preparing very
carefully. We will consult American lawyers. Many
foreign lawyers are willing to assist us. They met with
Vietnamese plaintiffs in both Vietnam and the US. After
researching the case and collecting evidences,
international lawyers say that Vietnamese plaintiffs
can highly win the case."

Lawyers are very confident, how about VAVA?

"We are also very confident and hope that US firms will
have to compensate Vietnamese Agent Orange victims.
Previously, US veterans sued these companies and they
received $180 million of compensation.

"However, in the worst case that we will not win the
case, we will lodge other lawsuits."

___________________________________________

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