14 September 2006
The following statement was issued today by the Special Rapporteur on adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights, Okechkwu Ibeanu:
“I have been following with growing concern the effects of the recent dumping of toxic waste in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. The consequent pollution has already resulted in the death of at least six persons and poisoned thousands of inhabitants of the city. Further, there is a strong suggestion that the side effects of this pollution will continue to adversely affect the human rights of peoples of the region over a very long period.
It is of utmost importance that a fair, impartial and independent investigation is carried out to determine the chain of responsibility which has led to this catastrophy. I am encouraged by the recent decision of the State Prosecutor, Mr. Raymond Tchimou, to open an investigation into this case and sincerely hope that the investigation currently underway will shed light on the many questions which are yet to be answered. These include the origin of the product, the country that has exported it, private companies, if any, that are directly or indirectly involved in its transportation and dumping, as well as the responsibilities of officials and oversight institutions.
It is also of utmost importance that those responsible for allowing the dumping of the toxic waste be identified and prosecuted accordingly. It is equally important to compensate the victims and their families. Areas affected by the dumping of these toxic products have to be carefully monitored and those living in nearby locations should provisionally be relocated to areas where their health is not at risk. Above all, processes should be put in place as quickly as possible to clean up the pollution and remedy the environment in order to limit further adverse effects on the populace. Indeed, the dumping of toxic products and wastes violates a wide range of human rights, including the right to life, the right to health and the right to adequate housing.
I also call upon all concerned countries and parties to immediately disclose all information on the exact content and composition of the toxic waste and any other information that could be used to save lives and treat persons that have been affected by the waste.
Finally, I appeal to international agencies and civil society organizations with the necessary expertise to assist the government and people of Cote d’Ivoire in containing further adverse impacts of this pollution on the human rights of the affected individuals and communities.”
In 1995, the Commission on Human Rights adopted its first resolution specifically concerning the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights (resolution 1995/81). The Commission noted with grave concern that the increasing rate of illicit dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes in developing countries continued to affect adversely the human rights to life and health, and decided to appoint a Special Rapporteur with a mandate (a) to investigate and examine the effect on the enjoyment of human rights; (b) to investigate, monitor, examine and receive communications and gather information on the subject; (c) to make recommendations and proposals on measures to control, reduce and eradicate illicit traffic and dumping; and (d) to compile a list of the countries and transnational corporations engaged in such practices.
Mr. Okechkwu Ibeanu (Nigeria) was appointed to this function in 2004. He is a professor of political science at the University of Nigeria, and has published widely on environment issues, including on the link between environment and security, and on issues relating to the impact of the petrochemical industry.
For more information: http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/environment/waste/