Asbestos Contamination at Jussieu University: A Judicial Scandal
On July 5, 2023, a decision by the Paris Court of Appeal was termed a judicial scandal by asbestos victims and civil society campaigners who condemned the verdict upholding a lower courts 2022 dismissal of a case over asbestos poisoning from 1960 until 1990 at Jussieu University.1 On two secondary points, the file was sent back to the investigating judges. Campaigners have pledged to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.2
This long-running case began in 1996 after decades of grassroots mobilization by teaching staff, students and campaigners over the ubiquity of asbestos within the infrastructure of the campus, home to the Faculty of Sciences of Sorbonne University, in the 5th arrondissement of Paris.
Archival photo of asbestos protest at Jussieu University.
Charges brought against former university officials who, it was alleged, had failed to take timely action to prevent asbestos exposures were, the Paris Court said last week, unproven. The defendants had been accused of causing injuries and involuntary homicides.
The July 5th verdict was just one in a long line of judicial setbacks for Frances asbestos victims.3 Given the emblematic significance of the Jussieu case in the national battle for asbestos justice, the latest court ruling had both historic as well as legal ramifications. The first asbestos actions at Jussieu took place in 1975; these included strikes, assemblies and discussions on its huge campus where asbestos sprayed insulation had been used extensively during construction.4 As of now, no one has been held to account for the damage done by toxic exposures to workers or university users in what was once known as Europes biggest asbestos-contaminated site.5
July 10, 2023
1 Amiante à Jussieu: «un scandale judiciaire», dénonce une association suite au non-lieu [Asbestos in Jussieu: a legal scandal, denounces association following the dismissal]. July 5, 2023.
In the February 2022 ruling, the three investigating magistrates concluded that it was not possible to link the damage done to possible faults which could be attributed with certainty to people responsible for preventing asbestos exposures. This verdict was appealed by the Jussieu anti-asbestos committee and the National Association of Asbestos Victims (AVA); a hearing in this case took place on January 25, 2023.
2 Amiante: le non-lieu dans laffaire du campus parisien de Jussieu confirmé en appel [Asbestos: the dismissal in the case of the Parisian campus of Jussieu confirmed on appeal]. July 5, 2023.
Intoxication par lamiante à luniversité de Jussieu: l'abandon des poursuites confirmé en appel [Asbestos poisoning at the University of Jussieu: the abandonment of the prosecution confirmed on appeal]. July 5, 2023.
3 The Paris Court of Appeal decision on the Jussieu case had been scheduled for June 14, 2023, but was postponed until July 5.
Kazan-Allen, L. Paris Court Spurns Victims Petition. May 24, 2003.
5 Kazan-Allen, L. Storming the Asbestos Barricades. October 18, 2012.
Kazan-Allen, L. The Global Asbestos Congress 2004. February 11, 2005.