A court in Paris examined on Monday the lawsuit of some 1,200 ex-banana growers from Nicaragua who are demanding in France the execution of a sentence that obliges US companies to pay them a millionaire compensation for the effects of a pesticide.
In 2006, the Nicaraguan justice system sentenced Shell, Dow Chemical and Occidental Chemical to pay 805 million dollars to these former banana farm workers, who never received compensation, for the impact on health of the use of the DBCP pesticide.
Despite having been confirmed in cassation in Nicaragua years later, the plaintiffs took the case to France in 2018 under the procedure called “exequatur”, which allows a foreign court ruling to be applied in this country and in the European Union (EU). .
“I believe that the French courts are going to do justice and are going to satisfy the anguish and hope of these Nicaraguan victims,” his Nicaraguan lawyer, Gustavo Antonio López Argüello, told the press at the end of the three-hour hearing.
If the French court of first instance accepts the execution of the sentence, assets of these three agrochemical groups could be seized to pay compensation. The decision, scheduled for May 11, can be appealed.
During their arguments, the farmers’ lawyers, Pierre-Olivier Sur and Clara Gérard-Rodriguez, defended the competence of the French justice to rule on a case that, in their opinion, is not prescribed.
The lawyers of the companies argued, for their part, that justice cannot pronounce itself and denounced that the right of defense was violated during the process in Nicaragua, which, in their opinion, was a “fraud.”
“Such an extent of violations of defense rights is unusual,” said Dow Chemical lawyer Jacques-Alexandre Genet, who described as “discriminatory” a 2001 law that seeks to “facilitate” the processing of DBCP lawsuits in Nicaragua.
The defense, which assured that the three condemned companies “were never present in Nicaragua,” also pointed out that in 2009 a California judge uncovered a “fraud” fabricated by lawyers with the “involvement” of the Nicaraguan judicial system in this scandal.
DBCP, a pesticide banned in 1977 in the United States and marketed until 1983 in Nicaragua as Nemagón or Fumazone, has been the subject of numerous lawsuits in Latin America.
This product is accused of causing cancer and infertility. The risks for man were recognized in 1977, after detecting numerous cases of infertility among workers in a California factory.
tjc / mb