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Toxic waste ship dragged to court Toxic waste ship dragged to court
by Amin George Forji
2006-11-03 09:42:09
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The Dutch charter company, Trafigura Beheer BV, which sparked international condemnation in September, after disposing of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast that left ten people dead and thousands of others ill, is soon bound to face court action.

This comes after a Dutch law firm representing some 1,000 Ivorian victim from the toxic waste, filed a suit against the ship company. The law firm in a statement said it had been commissioned to sue by Ivorian lawyers for the victims. The law firm added that Trafigura was reckless in disposing of the waste, even when they knew that Ivory Coast was unable to purify the waste.

"Trafigura is responsible because they knew what the waste was or they should have known…they should have known that Ivory Coast couldn't process this waste. They should have known the danger for people and the environment," said Bob van der Goen, one of the Dutch lawyers for the case, when interviewed by Reuters.

The law firm further requested Trafigura to pay the sum of $12.5m within a fortnight as preliminary settlement. Reacting to the suit, the director of Trafigura, Eric de Turckheim, announced in a statement that his company is ready to face the court hearing because they did not break any of Ivory Coast laws in dumping the waste.

The Trafigura Beheer BV was involved in a toxic waste scandal in Ivory Coast in September that caused the whole country to riot. Six people lost their lives that month, and many other Abidjan’s inhabitants crowded different hospitals across the city, complaining of breathing difficulties.

It all began when a ship chartered by Trafigura Ltd transported toxic waste, said to be deadly, from Europe to the streets of Ivory Coast capital city, Abidjan, dumping the waste in question at several locations. The waste was initially intended to be unloaded in Amsterdam on July 2nd, but harbour authorities, having detected it to be of strong smelling nature, declined the offer, except the firm paid extra treatment charges, which Trafigura refused to pay. Instead, she transported it to Abidjan, the capital of Ivory Coast, and the Abidjan government authorised the dumping on August 19, having come to a compromise with the firm on a moderate dumping fee.

Then tragedy struck the whole country. With the air seriously polluted, it was not long before the inhabitants of Abidjan began to face the consequences through no fault of their own. Ten people died, more than a thousand others have been left complaining of respiratory problems, vomiting (in most cases involving throwing up blood), nausea, burns, dizziness and irritation from the toxic waste. Overall, over 42, 000 people were hospitalized.

Following the scandal, the accused firm, Trafigura Ltd, confessed that the waste needed treatment and that they had dumped it with the understanding that that was going to be done. Many Greenpeace movements across the world have criticised the actions of Trafigura, accusing her of lacking morality in her behaviour, considering that Ivory Coast is a poor country in civil war, and could thus not possibly be in a position to properly treat deadly waste.

Angered, the populace took to the streets demanding the government resign for their negligence in allowing the dumping in the first place. As pressure mounted, the entire cabinet, except the president, was left with no other choice, but to step down.

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