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From Ecocide to Voluntary Remediation Projects: Legal Responses to “Environmental Warfare” in Vietnam and the Spectre of Colonialism

Cusato, Eliana (2018) 'From Ecocide to Voluntary Remediation Projects: Legal Responses to “Environmental Warfare” in Vietnam and the Spectre of Colonialism.' Melbourne Journal of International Law, 19 (2). pp. 494-520. ISSN 1444-8602

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This article examines legal responses to the pervasive legacy of ‘environmental warfare’ during the Vietnam War, most notably the use of Agent Orange and other chemical herbicides. It engages in a historical analysis of the different efforts to establish American accountability under international law, including within the United Nations General Assembly and before American courts, until the more recent United States-funded environmental remediation projects in dioxin contaminated areas and assistance to persons with disabilities. In doing so, the article draws attention to the unaccomplished quest for justice of the Vietnamese people and to some problematic dimensions of legal debates surrounding the environmental and human consequences of the Vietnam conflict. Borrowing insights from the postcolonial critique of international law, it suggests that the ‘dynamics of exclusion’ embedded in the laws of armed conflict may help to explain not only the way in which the war was fought in Vietnam, but also the reaction of the US and legal institutions to its deleterious impacts on humans and ecosystems. Revisiting past and current initiatives to address the effects of ‘environmental warfare’ in Vietnam raises hard questions on the role of international law and remedies vis-a-vis environmental degradation associated with contemporary conflicts in the Global South. It invites also to reflect on unintended consequences of proposals for law reforms that seek to reinforce environmental protection in war-torn countries, while reproducing injustices and discrimination.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities
Faculty of Humanities > Law, School of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2020 10:56
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 14:09

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