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justice dismisses but recognizes a “health scandal”

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French justice finally pronounced, Monday, a dismissal in the file of the complaints for the poisoning of the Antilles with chlordecone. This toxic pesticide had been authorized in banana plantations until 1993 to fight against the weevil.

The magistrates followed the requisitions and decided on a dismissal. Two Parisian investigating judges put an end to the investigation on Monday, January 2, without prosecution, into the massive poisoning of the West Indies with chlordecone, a pesticide authorized in banana plantations until 1993.

This decision of high symbolic value, learned Thursday from a source close to the case and confirmed by a judicial source, was feared by elected officials and residents of Martinique and Guadeloupe, who have regularly denounced a risk of “denial of justice”.

In an order signed on Monday and more than 300 pages long, two investigating magistrates from the public health and environment pole of the Paris judicial court put an end to this judicial investigation opened in 2008.

“Health scandal”

Extremely rare, the two judges conclude their order with five pages of explanations on the reasons for their dismissal concerning what they describe as a “health scandal”, an “environmental damage whose human, economic and social consequences affect and will affect for many years the daily life of the inhabitants” of Martinique and Guadeloupe.

For them, their decision is justified first of all by the difficulty of “reporting criminal evidence of the facts denounced”, “committed 10, 15 or 30 years before the filing of complaints”, the first having been in 2006.

The magistrates also underline “the state of technical or scientific knowledge” at the beginning of the 1990s: “the range of scientific arguments did not allow” to establish “the certain causal link required by criminal law” between the substance in cause on the one hand and the impact on health on the other.

“It is not possible to claim scientific advances” concerning knowledge of the health impact of chlordecone “after the facts” subject of the judicial information, underline the judges.

Also arguing about various obstacles related to the law, the magistrates attest that “the cause (of the complainants) has been heard” and that they had the “concern” to obtain a “judicial truth”, but they note their impossibility to ” characterize a criminal offence”.

In covert words, the judges also tackle most of the civil parties, “long silent” in this investigation: “Interest in the investigation only awoke after the two meetings organized on our initiative, in January 2021” , underlines the ordinance.

The two judges fairly openly invite the victims of chlordecone to take advantage of “the causality now established” between the pesticide and the damage suffered by the population to seize “other instances to obtain compensation for bodily injury”, this which could go through civil justice.

90% of inhabitants infected

Used in banana plantations to fight against the weevil, chlordecone was authorized in Martinique and Guadeloupe until 1993, under derogation, when the rest of French territory had banned its use.

He was only banned from the West Indies 15 years after warnings from the World Health Organization.

It caused significant and long-lasting pollution of the two islands.

According to a report published on December 6, 2021 by the National Health Security Agency (Anses), nearly 90% of the populations of Martinique and Guadeloupe are contaminated with chlordecone. The West Indies hold the sad world record for prostate cancer.

Since December 22, 2021, these cancers have been recognized as an occupational disease, paving the way for compensation for agricultural workers.

In 2006, several Martinican and Guadeloupean associations had filed a complaint for poisoning, endangering the lives of others and administration of harmful substances. A judicial inquiry was opened in 2008.

On November 25, the Paris prosecutor’s office had requested a dismissal, considering that the facts were prescribed, particularly with regard to poisoning, or uncharacterized, concerning the administration of harmful substances, which prevents any prosecution.

Since the announcement of these requisitions, demonstrations and gatherings have multiplied in Martinique.

Already, in February 2021, 5,000 to 15,000 people had marched through the streets of Fort-de-France.

In a letter of December 6, the president of the executive council of the territorial community of Martinique, Serge Letchimy, arrested Emmanuel Macron in the face of the risk of “denial of justice”.

The Head of State is “the first to have recognized the responsibility of the State in the pollution of chlordecone in 2018”, defended it the same day in the National Assembly the Minister Delegate for Overseas Territories, Jean- Francois Carenco.

With AFP

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