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Trafigura, Ivory Coast: Toxic waste dump victims pin hopes on 19 November appeals

Victims tell Amnesty they want justice and they want their money

Victims of the 2006 toxic waste dumping scandal in Ivory Coast have told Amnesty that they are eagerly waiting for the Ivorian courts to settle a dispute over their recently agreed payout settlement and that they will be in court next Thursday 19 November to see justice done.

Talking to Amnesty earlier this week, victims said that a court ruling in the capital Abidjan last Friday (6 November), that the £30m settlement paid by oil-trading company Trafigura to people affected by the toxic waste dumping should not be transferred into the account of an organisation which is falsely claiming to represent 30,000 of them, was a “small victory".

Genevieve Diallo, a victims' representative from the dumpsite area in Akouedo, Abidjan, warned:

"What happened on Friday was a small victory but we still haven’t had what is due to us.

"Now the justice system needs to do its work so that each and every one of us receives our compensation money. People are waiting impatiently for their money."

A freezing order on the bank account holding the £30m compensation is still in place and the victims' lawyers, Leigh Day & Co, are now appealing against the court’s decision to freeze the money.

The compensation was frozen on 22 October after an organisation, the National Coordination of Toxic Waste Victims of Côte d’Ivoire (CNVDT-CI), falsely claimed it represented all of the claimants and said the money should be transferred into its bank account instead. CNVDT-CI is also appealing against the court's decision last week not to transfer the funds to its account. Both appeals will be heard next Thursday 19 November.

Karim Kourouma, another victims’ representative from the Abobo area told Amnesty International:

“The court’s decision last Friday was a relief, but I was not totally satisfied with the outcome.

"Given that the court refused the application to transfer the money, the logical consequence should have been for the freezing order to be dropped immediately."

Karim Kourouma said:

“People feel utter desolation and revulsion at the prospect of this money being stolen from them. They will all be there in front of the court next Thursday to express that.”

In August 2006, toxic waste was brought to Abidjan on board the ship Probo Koala, which had been chartered by Trafigura.

This waste was then dumped in various locations around the city, causing a human rights tragedy. More than 100,000 people sought medical attention for a range of health problems and there were 15 reported deaths.

On 23 September 2009, the High Court of England and Wales approved a settlement agreement between nearly 30,000 victims of the toxic waste dumping, who had brought a case in the UK, and Trafigura.

The £30m had been transferred to an account in Ivory Coast set up by the victims’ lawyers for distribution to the claimants.

Benedetta Lacey, a special advisor at Amnesty International who has visited Ivory Coast and met victims of the dumping, said:

“The priority should be for the payment process to resume so that each claimant receives the money that they’re owed. We will be keeping a close eye on what happens next. Thirty thousand people need to see that their struggle for compensation for the terrible events of 2006 has not been in vain.”

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