Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Letter to MEPs about Trafigura and the Probo Koala incident

Apologies. This is a very long post. It reviews the case of Trafigura, a dump of toxic waste in the Cote d'Ivoire, and is raising the question of changes in European law affecting toxic waste.

Activists from the South West Green Party have been writing to the Members of the European Parliament elected in June of this year. They are asking them to press the European Commission to look into possible prosecution of international oil company for breaking European laws in dumping toxic waste in Africa, which was followed by widespread illness in Abidjan. This illness was clearly more serious than a short bout of influenza-like illness.

The company, Trafigura, made national front page news recently when they attempted to prevent the Guardian newspaper from reporting an MPs question about the affair. The super-injunction by the libel lawyers, Carter-Ruck, blew up in their faces in a spectacular way when Twitter, the internet messaging service, publicised the forbidden information.

(The text of the letter that will be sent, setting out the background information, is printed at the foot of this blog entry).

The aim of this campaign is to bring people pressure to bear on the people elected to be our voice in Europe.

The European Parliament has a pretty low public profile between elections.

The Green Party intends systematically to lobby the MEPs that had the good fortune to successful in June.

MEPs are handomely rewarded, so it is right that we should make them earn their salaries by doing what they are supposed to - represent the best interests of the people . This Trafigura issue is very important, because it appears that a European law was broken, and the health of many people was affected. Dr Lawson is trying to find out how many people are still getting symptoms.

So far Trafigura has reacted by firing off injunctions in a multiplicity of directions, trying to gag media sources as far afield as Norway, where they are currently under investigation by Norwegian police for alleged illegal import of toxic waste. Their efforts to hide information about the incident has been overcome by the power of thousands of people using Twitter".

Dr Lawson, who was one of the Green Party's candidates in the Euro-election, has also been asked by the Campaigns Department of the Green Party to convene a conference of NGOs to draft laws designed to restrict and regulate the power of Trans-National Corporations. In particular, they will be called to account in an orderly, legal way for any damage their operations may cause to health, wealth, or environment.


South West MEPs emails:


Letter to MEPs

Dear xxxx

As you know, in 2006 the oil company Trafigura dumped 500 tonnes of toxic waste from the Probo Koala in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, Africa, which was followed by a wave of illness affecting many in the city. Trafigura has been assertively trying to quash all debate over this matter, culminating in the imposition of a super-injunction on the Guardian to stop it reporting on a question in Parliament. The question related to an internal Trafigura report detailing the possible serious health consequences of the toxic dump.

You will recall that the injunction failed in a spectacular way due to people-power mediated by Twitter.

In 2006, Stavros Dimas, European Commissioner for the environment, made a tough speech in Estonia (where the Probo Koala was docked) about the Abidjan affair, stating that European Law (Article 26 REGULATION (EC) No 1013/2006) had been broken by Trafigura, and undertaking to tighten the regulations to prevent a repeat of such dumping.

Would you very kindly find out whether he has followed up on this promise?

As your constituent, I would be most grateful if you would ask the Environment Commissioner whether he believes that European Law governing toxic waste should be revised to prevent a repeat of the Probo Koala incident.

I would also appreciate your assurances that you take a serious view of the action of Trafigura in this matter, and whether you are satisfied that Trans-National Corperations are sufficiently regulated by national and international law.

Many thanks for your help with this important matter


Richard Lawson.
[update 5/11/09: Caroline Lucas MEP writes to Environment Commissioner enquiring about legal action]

[update 28.1.10: still no response from the MEPs. Useless]

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