Report Urges Criminal Investigation into Lethal Toxic Waste Dumping in West Africa

Waste removal experts work to remove hazardous black sludge from a garbage dump in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. (AP Photo, File)

Report Urges Criminal Investigation into Lethal Toxic Waste Dumping in West Africa

Multinational firm Trafigura to blame, must be prosecuted in UK, says groups

The UK must launch a criminal investigation of the multinational firm Trafigura for dumping toxic waste in Cote d'Ivoire in 2006, an incident which caused 17 deaths and thousands of illnesses in the region, according to a new report by Amnesty International and Greenpeace.

"The UK government must begin a criminal investigation into Trafigura's role in the dumping, as the UK arm of the Trafigura corporate group took many key decisions that led to the disaster," Greenpeace and Amnesty said releasing a 250-page report on the disaster.

In the 2006 incident, a Trafigura vessel unloaded hazardous waste, originating from a toxic oil refining process, in several sites around the Cote d'Ivoire capital city Abidjan over the course of one night. The vessel had been turned down at several ports around the world, due to its contents, but was eventually allowed to unload the poisonous cargo on the residents of Abidjan.

Toxic waste from the ship, Probo Koala, had been dumped in at least 18 locations throughout the city, including near houses, schools and crops.

More than 100,000 people sought medical treatment in the first five months after the waste was dumped. An estimated 17 deaths were caused by the exposure including and a 6-month-old baby and an inmate at Abidjan's main prison said to be 12 or 13 years old, according to the new report, The Toxic Truth.

The report is the result of a three-year investigation of the events leading up to the "medical, political and environmental disaster" -- "the most in-depth report into the incident ever concluded," according to the groups.

"Six years have passed since this horrible tragedy was allowed to happen," says Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's Secretary General. "It's time that Trafigura was made to face full legal accountability for what happened. People in Abidjan were failed not just by their own government but by governments in Europe who did not enforce their own laws. Victims are still waiting for justice and there are no guarantees that this kind of corporate crime will not happen again".

"This is a story of corporate crime, human rights abuse and governments' failure to protect people and the environment. It is a story that exposes how systems for enforcing international law have failed to keep up with companies that operate transnationally, and how one company has been able to take full advantage of legal uncertainties and jurisdictional loopholes, with devastating consequences," said Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo. "It is not too late for justice to be served, for the people of Abidjan to be given full information about what was dumped and for Trafigura to pay for its crimes. Only then can we hope to avoid any repetition of this kind of disaster."

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