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Lethal Injustice: French Gulf veterans fight for justice

On 29 June 2005, on the 48th day of his hunger-strike, Christian Prud'homme, a veteran of the 1991 Gulf War, was received at the French Ministry of Defence - accompanied by his care-giver and the presidents of Avigolfe and ACDN - by eight Ministry officials, most of whom remained anonymous. Here they will be called "the Ministry". The interview, scheduled to last one hour, lasted three times that long, but produced no tangible result.
29 September 2006 - ICBUW

Joint media release from
AVIGOLFE (French Veterans of the Gulf War)
ACDN France (Association of Citizens for Nuclear Disarmament)

Consistently refusing to face the overall problem of the Gulf War veterans who have died or who suffer from adverse health consequences, the Ministry proceeded to examine in detail the "case" of Brigadier Prud'homme, whereas he had and has no intention of separating his case from those of his comrades; besides, those present at this meeting lacked the competence to judge the medical aspects of his case or to be given the details of his private life.

At the end of the interview, the Ministry proposed a one-off assistance payment to Christian Prud'homme, visits from the sub-prefect and a manager of ONAC [the national returned servicemen's office], and a re-examination of his dossier "from the very beginning" by the very same army judicial committee which had decided in 2003 to award him an accumulated invalidity pay-out of 95%, but only "on documentary grounds" and "without pension". The Ministry does not accept the presumption that the health problems are imputable to military service through exposure to multiple pathogens during the Gulf War (just as that presumption is rejected for asbestos victims in civilian life). The onus is on each veteran or widow to prove the connection.

Now everyone knows that it is very hard to prove cause and effect when an illness or infirmity appears months or years later, as for example with the cases of inhalation and ingestion of dust particles from "Depleted Uranium" (so-called, but it is depleted only in U235 and enriched in other uranium isotopes). The fact that this French soldier, on his return from the Gulf, was disembarked at Toulon on a stretcher, with a diagnosis of post-traumatic pathologies, is not even counted as sufficient proof. Under these conditions, how can the 400 veterans or veterans' families who have contacted Avigolfe hope to have their rights recognised?

The Ministry is hiding behind the advice of experts or behind current judicial proceedings. However, Professor Salamon, whose expertise the Ministry sought, has declared: "one must say that there are additional problems due to the Gulf War, and these must be taken account of, recognised, pensioned, and everyone will agree" (France-Bleue Gironde, interview broadcast on 20 and 23 November 2004). As for the judicial proceedings, they were instigated by victims only out of desperation, and nothing prevents the ministry from extinguishing them by taking the political decision to acknowledge and assume the responsibilities of the army as an employer in this matter of employment-related illnesses.

The Ministry seems once more to be "playing for time" and trying to stifle the media scandal which Prud'homme's action is starting to stir up. Christian Prud'homme has informed the Ministry that he intends to continue his hunger-strike until the authorities put in place the justice and common-sense measures which are required by the situation of the victims of "Operation Daguet", i.e. France's participation in the Gulf War of 1991.

We call on all citizens, irrespective of their political leanings, to mobilise so as to end this unjust situation without delay.

AVIGOLFE: avigolfe@tiscali.fr
ACDN: acdn.france@wanadoo.fr

On May 13th 2005 a French victim of Gulf War Syndrome, M. Christian Prud'homme, who lives at Riquewihr (Haut Rhin) began a hunger strike to try to get the French Army to award him a pension. He had served 7 years in the Gulf and had had to be brought back on a stretcher. His condition has become worse over the years: he has lost his sight, suffers from dreadful muscular pain and is dependent on a wheelchair. He has tried for years to get the army to provide a pension to pay for the care he needs. By now he is very weak and has lost 30 kilos but he is determined to pursue the hunger strike to the end - justice or death. You are asked to write to the French Minister of Defence, Mme Alliot-Marie at courrier-ministre@sdbc.defense.gouv.fr to express your concern at the lack of action on the part of her department. Please ask her to have the case of M. Prudhomme and those of Gulf War veterans in similar circumstances investigated as soon as possible by competent authorities that are independent of the army.