Urgent resolution on environmental justice in Vietnam

18/11/2019
Statement

Noting that in April 2016, over 300 tons of fish died in four provinces of the North Central Region of Vietnam: Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, and Thua Thien-Hue. After investigation, the Vietnam National Assembly Report identified the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation in the Vung Ang Economic Zone in Vietnam to be the primary culprit in the pollution incident which caused the disastrous marine pollution by discharging wastewater contained toxic substances such as phenol and cyanide.

Noting that Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation is affiliated with Formosa Plastics Group (FPG) based in Taiwan, a transnational corporation with a history of reckless disregard for the environmental impacts of its activities on the local communities where it operates. The FPG and its international subsidiaries have faced major fines and lawsuits in the United States, notably in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi after discharging poisonous chemicals into the land and underground water.

Recalling that Formosa Ha Tihn Steel Corporation publicly admitted responsibility for the environmental pollution on June 30, 2016.

Noted that, at the end of June 2016, Formosa Ha Tihn Steel Corporation offered their apologies and a compensation settlement of 500 million USD to the government, which has been criticized by many NGOs and civil society actors as being wholly insufficient and having largely failed to reach the affected population. In addition, the settlement was reached prior to any comprehensive assessment or evaluation of the damages, and without any transparency or public participation.

Alerted by the Vietnamese authorities’ systematic repressions of the freedom of expression and assembly of the population, in relation to their grievances about the Formosa Ha Tihn disaster. This systematic silencing of dissent and criticisms follows a pattern of state repression in Vietnam which has been condemned time and time again by the UN, including the HRC and the OHCHR, and documented by a range of independent NGOs.

Concerned that Justice for Formosa Victims has gathered testimony and affidavits from dozens of individuals, primarily in the affected regions of Central Vietnam, who experienced and witnessed state crackdowns connected to the Formosa case. These crackdowns have taken many forms, including targeted violence against peaceful demonstrators, arbitrary arrests and detention of hundreds of critics and protesters on trumped up charges, and weaponization of the judicial system to silence dissenters with long prison sentences.

Concerned that the right to an effective remedy has been extensively violated in the Formosa case as fishermen and other individuals in the affected provinces have faced many barriers to obtaining adequate compensation and reparation for the damages and various rights violations that they have suffered. The Vietnamese government lacks the independent and impartial judiciary necessary to make up for these failings, leaving the population with little to no recourse for the injustices that they face.

Noted that the Vietnamese State has failed to uphold its responsibilities and obligations towards its citizens under international human rights law (including various treaties and declarations that Vietnam has signed and/or ratified). The marine pollution has raised not only environmental concerns but also serious concerns of gross violations of various human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to a clean environment, the right to food, the right to health, the right to work, the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and the right to information, and finally, the right to an effective remedy.

Recalling that Taiwan government has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in 2009 and the Act to Implement the two Covenants was enacted on December 10, 2009.

Noted that 7,785 Vietnamese victims submitted a transnational lawsuit against Formosa Plastics Group to Taiwan Taipei District Court on June 11, 2019, seeking justice for the disastrous marine pollution in Vietnam in 2016 and causing harm and endangering their physical health.

Alerted by the ruling received by the plaintiffs’ attorneys on October 14, 2019 from Taiwan Taipei District Court dated on October 5, 2019, stating that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction over this case and therefore rejected the lawsuit.

Note that the plaintiffs have decided to appeal to the Taiwan Taipei High Court, which will be filed by October 24, 2019.

The FIDH at its 40th Congress, Taipei, Taiwan:

Call on Taiwan Courts to:

- Reconsider the Formosa case and hear the litigation to provide better protection for the interest of the Plaintiffs, who are vulnerable, and ensuring the practice that is more in line with the protection of human rights under international law. Asserting jurisdiction in this litigation by the court in Taiwan will achieve the equity between the parties, fulfil the need for a just and impartial judgment, and ensure the speediness of the proceedings and the idea of litigation economics.

Call on the Vietnamese government to:

- Allow for a fully transparent and independent investigation of the Formosa disaster to be conducted by an impartial and international team of experts, with the mandate to identify and analyze the causes and consequences of the spill, propose measures to hold those who were responsible accountable for their actions, as well as to evaluate the total value of damages and loss, and the total amount of compensation that is warranted and required;

- immediately and unconditionally release all arbitrarily detained and imprisoned environmental protesters.

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