Supreme Court should consider repression of human rights in Vietnam in ruling over environmental disaster

21/01/2022
Press release
en zh

Ahead of a critical ruling by Taiwan’s Supreme Court in a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of victims of the 2016 marine disaster in Vietnam against petrochemical giant Formosa Plastics Group (FPG), FIDH echoes the calls of members of the Monitor Formosa Alliance and representatives of the Vietnamese plaintiffs for the court to take into account the acute human rights situation and pandemic restrictions when making its decision.

In 2016, Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation (FHS), a subsidiary of Formosa Plastics Group (FPG), caused catastrophic marine pollution along the coast of central Vietnam, which affected the livelihoods of tens of thousands and triggered a series of human rights violations. The Vietnamese government cracked down on peaceful protesters who demanded FHS’ transparency and accountability, fair and reasonable remedy, as well as restoration of the natural environment. Having failed three times in their attempt to access local courts, more than 7,000 victims of the disastrous pollution took their case to Taiwan and sued the parent company, FPG, in 2019. Three years on, the lawsuit has yet to enter the substantive trial proceedings.

In November 2021, Taiwan’s Supreme Court demanded Vietnamese plaintiffs have their Power of Attorney documents notarized at Taiwan’s de facto missions in Vietnam. However, the steps required for Vietnamese plaintiffs to have their POAs notarized are costly and risky, and they are made extremely difficult by pandemic-related restrictions. Worse, they would put plaintiffs and their families in serious danger of retaliation by the Vietnamese government.

In view of the above, we call on the Supreme Court of Taiwan to:

- Consider the pandemic and the dire human rights situation in Vietnam when making its latest ruling of the Formosa Plastics Group (FPG) lawsuit.
- Accept other methods of POA notarization and agree to extend the deadline for submission of proof of POA until the end of oral arguments at the substantive trial.
- Consider the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, whose obligations and commitment were voluntarily accepted by Taiwan in 2009, when reviewing and/or making any ruling pertaining to this lawsuit.

Moreover, we call on the government of Vietnam to:

- Immediately and unconditionally release and drop all charges against all human rights defenders currently imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
- Repeal or substantially amend the Penal Code and other non-human rights-compliant legislation, used to harass and imprison individuals—including independent journalists and human rights defenders—for the exercise of their fundamental rights, and bring them in conformity with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Vietnam has been a State Party since 1982, and other applicable international law and standards.

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