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Asbestos: the Paris court refuses to hold a criminal trial requested by victims


The judges of the chamber specializing in litigation related to the environment and public health decided on Friday May 19 that the asbestos health scandal would not give rise to a criminal trial. The Paris Criminal Court had given itself so far to settle the question, while the first complaint in this area dates back to 1996.

This decision was rendered after debates related to the admissibility of a direct collective summons from nearly 1,850 victims or beneficiaries, who opposed their lawyer, Antoine Vey, on March 9 to those of fourteen alleged “national officials” in that case. The court finally pronounced the nullity of this procedure because of its “imprecision”explaining that the defendants were not “not in a condition to be able to link what is reproached to each” to specific victims.

“I won’t give up”

Complainants now have two options: file a new citation or appeal. “We can redo a quote, and that’s what we’re going to do, very clearly”announced Michel Parigot, head ofAssociation of victims of asbestos and other pollutants, after the statement of the decision. According to him, the imprecision alleged in the quotation is “due to the fact that justice has not done its job”. “There was no education for twenty-six years and (…) they did not look for the documents whereas we found a lot of them”he lambasted.

“As a victim, we cannot understand that after twenty-five years we are still asking ourselves questions”reacted for his part Pierre Pluta, ex-worker of the shipyards of Dunkirk and president of Ardeva, a regional association for the defense of victims. “I will not give up, I promised the victims”he added, tears in his eyes.

For about three years, most of the asbestos cases investigated in Paris have ended in dismissal, to the chagrin of the victims, who are demanding a criminal trial to judge those responsible for this scandal. To achieve this, some 1,800 victims decided to file a direct summons, which allows the victim of an offense to go directly to a criminal court. In this type of procedure, there are no investigations carried out by magistrates: it is up to the plaintiffs to collect the evidence and designate the suspects.

The Asbestos Standing Committee, a “lobby”

The citation was addressed to fourteen former representatives of ministries, business leaders or doctors, aged 62 to 84, who, according to the plaintiffs, sought to delay the ban on carcinogenic fiber, decided in 1997. The plaintiffs wanted them to be held accountable for their ties to the Asbestos Standing Committee, described in a 2005 Senate report as a “lobby” active proasbestos between 1982 and 1995, while all varieties of asbestos had been classified as carcinogenic by the World Health Organization since 1977.

Some of them had been indicted in 2011 and 2012 in two emblematic cases of the health scandal, those of the Parisian campus of Jussieu and the Normed shipyards of Dunkirk, before the Court of Cassation endorsed the abandonment of the prosecution. against them. In the summons, the following offenses were targeted: “manslaughter and involuntary injury”, “failure to assist a person in danger”, “complicity in the administration of a harmful substance”, “complicity in aggravated deception” and “criminal association”. In 2012, health authorities estimated that asbestos could cause three thousand deaths each year by 2025 from cancers of the pleura or bronchopulmonary cancers.

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