Dutch lawyer seeks damages for Ivory Coast victims
Mon 23 Oct 2006 11:58 AM ET
AMSTERDAM, Oct 23 (Reuters) – A lawyer representing victims of toxic waste dumped illegally in Ivory Coast on Monday demanded damages from the Dutch-based oil trading company Trafigura which chartered the tanker that carried the waste.
Bob van der Goen, a Dutch lawyer who represents victims from Ivory Coast, said he had written to Trafigura to ask it to pay 10 million euros ($12.55 million) as an advance on potential future damages within the next two weeks or face court action.
“We are seeking an advance of 10 million euros to alleviate suffering. The real claim will be much higher,” he told Reuters, adding he expected more than 1,000 claimants and would seek a Dutch court injunction if no payment is made soon.
“Trafigura is responsible because they knew what it (the waste) was or they should have known,” he said. “They should have known that Ivory Coast couldn’t process this waste. They should have known the danger for people and the environment.”
Van der Goen said he was working with lawyers in Ivory Coast to gather victims and document their health complaints. He has also written to Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende to highlight the Netherlands’ moral responsibility in the case.
Ten people died after poisonous chemical slops were unloaded from the tanker which docked in Abidjan port in August and were dumped at 17 mostly open-air sites in the lagoon city, making thousands ill with vomiting, diarrhoea, nosebleeds and nausea.
Investigations are underway in the West African state and in Europe to find out how the waste came to be discarded after it was unloaded from the Panamanian-registered Probo Koala chartered by Trafigura.
The company’s director and West Africa regional director have been detained in Abidjan and face charges under Ivorian toxic waste and poisoning laws.
The company, which estimates this year’s turnover will be $45 billion, denies any wrongdoing and has said it ceased to bear legal responsibility for the waste when it passed it over to a local disposal company.
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