Amnesty International has today (19 August) 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.
“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," said Amnesty's special advisor on corporate accountability, Benedetta Lacey.
“These payouts have been dogged by repeated delays and a lack of transparency," added Lacey, "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.
Amnesty reports that 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, saying that their claim to represent all 30,000 claimants involved in the UK settlement is patently untrue.
“More than 6,000 people are owed the equivalent of a year’s wages after a hard won settlement with Trafigura," explained Lacey, "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".
“On the fifth anniversary, we must think about the victims," said Geneviève Diallo, a representative of a victims’ group next to Akouedo dumpsite, "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 is calling on the Ivorian government to locate the missing funds and ensure full payment to the thousands who, five years after the dumping, are still waiting for compensation.