African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights holds Côte d'Ivoire accountable in Trafigura toxic waste dump case for human rights failures
"Victory at the African Court for victims of the TRAFIGURA toxic waste dump", 3 Oct 2023
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has found the Ivorian State at fault for failing to protect human rights in the TRAFIGURA toxic waste dump case. This decision, rendered on 5 September 2023, was long-awaited and welcome news for those seeking justice in this egregious case of corporate abuse.
The Ivorian Human Rights League (LIDHO), the Ivorian Human Rights Movement (MIDH), and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) documented the case in 2011 and brought the Ivorian State to court in 2016.
On 19 August 2006, PROBO KOALA received authorisation to sail into Abidjan’s port. The vessel was chartered by TRAFIGURA, a multinational oil trading company, to carry 528 m3 of toxic waste originating from the refining of dirty petroleum. TRAFIGURA’s subsidiary PUMA then commissioned local company TOMMY to dispose of the slops for just 17,000 USD.
Later that day, lorry drivers dumped the toxic waste in the open air at the Akouédo landfill site and at around ten other densely populated sites. This marked the beginning of a major health crisis: 17 people died from inhaling toxic gases, hundreds of thousands suffered breathing and skin problems, and the groundwater was contaminated...
The African Court... found that the Ivorian State violated several human rights under the Banjul Charter- such as the right to life, health, and a satisfactory environment - by not preventing the waste dumping in the first place and not offering adequate remedy, information and compensation at a later stage.
The Court also obliged the State to set up, in consultation with the victims and within one year, a compensation fund drawing on the sums paid by TRAFIGURA under its settlement. The Court even considered that the protocol contributed to impunity through immunity from prosecution, therefore affecting the availability of some domestic remedies for those affected by the illegal disposal of waste.
Ivory Coast is also mandated to open an independent and impartial investigation to establish the criminal and individual responsibility of all persons and entities involved, and prosecute them. It will additionally have to implement legislative and regulatory reforms to prohibit the import and dumping of hazardous waste on its territory, as well as legislation to guarantee the liability of legal entities for waste dumping and other actions affecting the environment...