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France: Compensation of Victims of French Nuclear Testing

(Jan. 22, 2010) The French Parliament recently adopted Law 2010-2 of January 5, 2010, on the compensation of victims of French nuclear testing (Loi 2010-5 du 5 janvier 2010 relative à la reconnaissance et à l'indemnisation des victimes des essais nucléaires français, Legifrance, (File: les autres textes législatifs et réglementaires) (last visited Jan. 19, 2010). The law allows the financial compensation of any person, civilian or military, who suffered from an illness resulting from direct exposure to radiation. The Law lists the times and places where the victim must have either resided or stayed. France carried out nuclear testing in the Sahara desert and in French Polynesia over more than three decades. If the victim is deceased, the request for compensation may be presented by his/her heirs. A list of illnesses giving rise to compensation, based on the work of the international scientific community, is to be established. (Id.)

A compensation committee composed of medical experts appointed by the Ministries of Defense and Health and presided over by either a member of the Conseil d'Etat (France' highest administrative court) or of the Cour de Cassation (France's Supreme Court for civil and criminal matters) will review the compensation requests. The victims or their heirs must file a request within five years of the publication of the Law in the official gazette. The Law was published in the January 6, 2010, issue of the official gazette. The committee will have access to any useful medical information and doctor-patient confidentiality cannot be invoked to oppose committee demands. If the request is granted, the victim will receive a lump-sum. (Id.)

Finally, the Minister of Defense must convene a Consultative Committee on the Consequences of Nuclear Testing at least twice a year. This Committee is to monitor the implementation of the Law and to advise the Minister on whether the list of illnesses giving rise to compensation needs to be modified. (Id.)