Amnesty International Says First Convictions for 1984 Union Carbide Disaster in India -- Too Little, Too Late

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Amnesty International Says First Convictions for 1984 Union Carbide Disaster in India -- Too Little, Too Late

WASHINGTON - Following convictions today
of seven Indian citizens for the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak disaster,
Amnesty International is calling on the Indian and U.S. governments to
take the next step by bringing the U.S.-based Union Carbide Corporation
(UCC) to justice.

Seven Indian nationals, who formerly worked for the Indian company Union
Carbide India Ltd (UCIL), were today found guilty by the Bhopal Court of
causing death by negligence, a charge that carries a maximum two year
sentence.
 

"These are historic convictions, but it is too little, too late.
 Twenty-five
years is an unacceptable length of time for the survivors of the
disaster
and families of the dead to have waited for a criminal trial to reach a
conclusion," said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at
Amnesty International.

More than 25 years after the disaster, the site has not been cleaned up,
the leak and its impact have not been properly investigated, more than
100,000 people continue to suffer from health problems without the
medical
care they need, and survivors are still awaiting fair compensation and
full redress for their suffering.

U.S.-based UCC and its former Chairman, Warren Anderson, were charged in
1987.  However, both have refused to face trial.

"While the Indian employees have now been tried and convicted, the
foreign
accused have been able to evade justice simply by remaining abroad. This
is totally unacceptable," said Gaughran.

U.S.-based UCC has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical
Company
(Dow) since 2001. Survivors and human rights groups have been
campaigning
for Dow to address the ongoing impacts of the disaster, including
contamination
of water by chemical waste, but the company has consistently ignored
these
calls, denying any responsibility for UCC's liabilities in Bhopal.

"All too often, complex company structures and the fact that companies
operate across multiple jurisdictions are major obstacles to holding
companies
accountable," said Gaughran. "The convictions of the Indian accused in
this case are clearly not enough - the governments of India and the
United
States must ensure that the foreign accused, including UCC, are also
made
to face trial."

The massive gas leak killed between 7,000 and 10,000 people in its
immediate
aftermath, and a further 15,000 over the next 20 years.  More than
100,000 continue to suffer from serious health problems as a
consequence.

Criminal prosecutions in Bhopal have neither been timely nor effective.
In the decades between arrests and prosecution, thousands of people have
died from gas-related illnesses.

The Indian state has failed to fulfill its international obligations, by
allowing criminal prosecutions to drag on for years, denying both
victims
and the accused the right to have criminal accountability determined
promptly
and without undue delay.

All efforts to extradite Warren Anderson have been unsuccessful. UCC
continues
to defy Indian jurisdiction, failing to abide by repeated summons to
appear
before the Bhopal criminal court. As a result, criminal prosecution of
Anderson and UCC has not been possible.

Background

On December 2, 1984, thousands of pounds of deadly chemicals leaked from
UCC's pesticide plant in Bhopal, central India. Around half a million
people were exposed. Between 7,000 and 10,000 people died in the
immediate
aftermath and a further 15,000 over the next 20 years.

Only hours after the tragedy, nine
individuals
and three corporations were accused. These included eight Indian
individuals
working for UCIL or the Bhopal plant, and Warren Anderson, a U.S.
national
and Chairman of UCC at the time. The companies accused were Indian-based
UCIL, its U.S.-based parent company UCC, and UCE, a wholly owned
subsidiary
of UCC based in Hong Kong but incorporated in the USA. Arrests were made
swiftly afterwards, although charges were only pressed in 1987.

In 2005, the Bhopal Court issued a summons for Dow to attend the
proceedings
and give account as to why it should not produce its fully owned
subsidiary
and proclaimed absconder, UCC, in court. Dow's subsidiary in India, Dow
Chemical India Private Ltd, successfully applied for the summons to be
stayed.

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Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.

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