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Thursday 31 July  
Clean up operation in Ivory Coast  Photo: ANP
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Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Greenpeace vows to pursue Trafigura

Published on : 21 September 2009 - 5:01pm | By Paddy Maguire
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Environmental group Greenpeace has vowed to continue its pursuit of the company that settled out of court in London for toxic waste it dumped in Ivory Coast in 2006.

The move comes after oil trading firm Trafigura agreed this weekend to pay more than 30 million euros in compensation to thousands of victims who complained they fell ill after the waste was dumped at 18 sites around Abidjan, the country's largest city.

Some 30,000 local residents suffered from sickness, diarrhoea and breathing difficulties following the fly-tipping by an Ivorian sub-contractor.

Serious damage
Longer term affects alleged to have arisen as a result of the waste including miscarriage, birth defects and death were not dealt with in the case.

A United Nations report last week suggested a strong link between at least 15 deaths and the dumping of toxic waste in Ivory Coast. A link that is strongly denied by Trafigura.

It said in a statement after the deal was reached:

“Today’s settlement completely vindicates the position held by Trafigura since the beginning of this litigation. Throughout that time, the company has been the target of an enormous volume of misinformed and defamatory attacks in the media, by Greenpeace and, most recently, the UN Special Rapporteur, who unfortunately carried out no proper analysis of the scientific evidence and rejected Trafigura’s repeated offers to share that evidence with him.”

Criminal case
The environmental group Greenpeace argues that the company has escaped justice - and wants to bring a criminal case in The Netherlands where Trafigura  has its main office, accusing the company of manslaughter and grievous bodily harm for the affects the toxic sludge had on the inhabitants of Ivory Coast.

Marietta Harjono, a campaigner for Greenpeace in the Netherlands, told Radio Netherlands Worldwide that the out of court settlement did little to exonerate Trafigura.

“So far we have not seen any convincing evidence that they are innocent. On the contrary. We know now from many documents, including internal emails and also from their own  Minton report that they knew the chemical processes on the Probo Koala would be very toxic. They knew it was very difficult to get this properly processed and that it was forbidden to send it to Africa….this is all blamable and illegal under Dutch law. We think that the Dutch Public Prosecution can start a criminal prosecution against Trafigura for intentional pollution of the environment.”

'Wholly selective'
Trafigura has maintained that it tried to dispose lawfully of the ‘slops’ on board its chartered tanker, the Probo Koala, saying in a statement that Greenpeace had been “wholly selective” in its interpretation of high level emails which should not have been taken literally.

Mariette Harjono maintains that a high court trial due to start in London on October 6 was part of the reason Trafigura agreed to settle.

“The court case in London would have started in three weeks. They didn’t want this to go to court because [everything] would become public. They are trying  hide this information.”

While Trafigura has vehemently denied any wrong doing throughout the three year case, Ms Harjono says Greenpeace hopes that a case brought in the Netherlands may have a more successful result.

“We have immediately received an answer from the Court of Justice [in the Netherlands] which is a good sign. They are hoping to have a decision within four months…and we hope that the Dutch state will fully prosecute Trafigura for all the crimes they have committed.”
 
Listen to Greenpeace's Marietta Harjono:

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