Amnesty International has today called on the new government of Ivory Coast to ensure that the compensation paid out by the oil-trading corporate group Trafigura reaches the thousands of victims affected by a toxic waste dumping in 2006, as it marks the fifth year anniversary of the disaster.
Trafigura has paid US$260 million (nearly £158million) in total but much of the money remains unaccounted for and thousands of victims have not received anything.
Amnesty International’s special advisor on corporate accountability Benedetta Lacey said:
“It is an unacceptable disgrace that so many people who were affected by the dumping have not received the compensation money they are entitled to.
“These payouts have been dogged by repeated delays and a lack of transparency. President Ouattara’s government must act decisively to show that corruption and misappropriation of funds will not be tolerated.”
The dumping of toxic waste in 2006 affected more than 100,000 people in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s commercial capital.
In September 2009 Trafigura made a payment of US$45 million (£27.2 million) in an out-of-court settlement with nearly 30,000 Ivorians who had brought a lawsuit seeking damages for personal injury in relation to the dumping.
However the distribution of that money was subsequently derailed by a group falsely claiming to represent the victims. The group calling itself the National Coordination of Toxic Waste Victims of Ivory Coast (CNVDT-CI) obtained an Ivorian court order for the money to be transferred to its bank account for distribution to the claimants.
Following this court order, the UK law firm which pursued the claim declared that it felt that it had ‘no alternative’ but to agree to a joint distribution process with CNVDT-CI.
The law firm recently reported that at least 6,000 of its clients are still waiting for their compensation from CNVDT-CI. The head of CNVDT-CI is now reported to have disappeared and there is no further indication as to when the remaining compensation will be paid out.
Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed serious concern about the role of CNVDT-CI, whose claim to represent all 30,000 claimants involved in the UK settlement is patently untrue.
Benedetta Lacey added:
“More than 6,000 people are owed the equivalent of a year’s wages after a hard won settlement with Trafigura. The government of Ivory Coast must ensure that CNVDT-CI pays out the millions it owes to the claimants.
“The new government must act now to end this protracted fiasco and deliver justice to the thousands of people affected by the toxic waste dumped on their doorsteps,”
A representative of a victims’ group next to Akouedo dumpsite, Geneviève Diallo said:
“On the 5th anniversary, we must think about the victims. There are 300 people in my area who have not yet received their compensation. Those who have misappropriated the money must be brought to justice. Justice must be done.”
Amnesty International calls on the Ivoirian government to locate the missing funds and ensure full payment to the thousands who, five years after the dumping, are still waiting for compensation.
On 19 August 2006, toxic waste was brought to Abidjan on board the ship Probo Koala, which had been chartered by oil-trading corporate group, Trafigura. This waste was then dumped in various locations around the city of Abidjan.
More than 100,000 people sought medical attention for a range of health problems and there were 15 reported deaths.
In February 2007 Trafigura entered into a settlement agreement with the Ivory Coast government under which Trafigura paid US$195 million (£118 million) for compensation and clean up costs. The government subsequently drew up a list of over 95,000 victims to compensate; however the government compensation process was never completed and questions remain over how much of the US$195 million the victims actually received.
In April 2008 Trafigura made a second payment of US$20 million (£12.1 million) to the government of Ivory Coast as full and final payment under the settlement agreement and to pay for additional clean up costs.
All payments referenced above have been converted to the US$ equivalent of the actual amounts paid based on historic currency calculations and are approximate values. Both settlements were made without any admission of liability by Trafigura.