4 Nov 2009

Challenge to MEPs to act on Toxic Dump Case

Updated 9th November 2009

Activists from the South West Green Party including myself have been writing to the Members of the European Parliament elected in June of this year asking them to press the European Commission to prosecute an international oil company for breaking European laws in dumping toxic waste in Africa. Many got ill - an illness that was clearly more serious than a short bout of influenza-like illness.

Photo: Ruscombe view

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, blew up in their faces in a spectacular way when Twitter, the internet messaging service, publicised the forbidden information.

The text of the letter, 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 - we need to make them more accountable.

MEPs are handsomely 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, who is leading this campaign, is trying to find out how many people are still getting symptoms.

Here is what he has said: "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.

Others may also wish to write - the addresses of SW MEPs can be found here: http://bit.ly/f9SHK
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 agressively trying to quash all debate over this matter, culminating in the imposition of a super-injunction on the Guardian to stop it reporting on an MPs question regarding an internal Trafigura report detailing the possible serious health consequences of their action. You will recall that the injunction failed in a spectacular due to people-power using 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. It is not clear whether he has followed up on this promise.

As your constituent, I would be most grateful if you would take this matter up with Commissioner Dimas, asking him whether the EU will be bringing a case against Trafigura for their breach of European Law, and what measures he intends to take to make such dumping of toxic waste less likely in the future.

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

Sincerely, Philip Booth


Anonymous said...

Dose the European Parliament have the power to do anything meaningful on the matter? Whilst Dr Lawson tells us how fortunate and handsomely rewarded MEPs are, what he doesn’t tell us is what MEPs can do, other than express outrage. I’m slightly worried the good doctor is setting up the MEPs to be straw men, that what ever the MEPs reaction it will be too little for Dr L.

Philip Booth said...

I've just updated the post with a bit more info to clarify - apols for delay in publishing comment but I was away for a couple of days - you are correct that MEPs have few powers but collectively they can help draft new laws and hopefully ensure the truth is found - I understand investigating such cases can be enormously difficult and public support from elected officials can be helpful in ensuring this is not all swept under the carpet.

So far I have received replies from the Conservative MEPs saying I will get a reply from Julie Girling. No reply yet from others.

Philip Booth said...

I note only Green Caroline Lucas Lib Dem MEP and Graham Watson answered this query and took actions:
and answers

Let's hope the Dutch courts now do their business!