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UN EXPERT ON TOXIC WASTE CONCLUDES FACT-FINDING MISSION TO THE NETHERLANDS

Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights, Mr. Okechukwu Ibeanu, issued the following public statement at the end of his mission to the Kingdom of Netherlands


Ladies and gentleman,

In my capacity as the Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights, I visited the Kingdom of the Netherlands from 26 to 28 November 2008 at the invitation of the Government.

The purpose of my mission is to continue my investigation into the Probo Koala case. In August 2008, I visited Cote d’Ivoire to gather first-hand information on the human rights consequences of the 2006 dumping of toxic waste around the city of Abidjan, following which I issued a press statement outlining my preliminary observations from that mission. My investigation has brought me to the Netherlands as the Probo Koala sailed from the Port of Amsterdam to Paladski, Estonia with the waste still onboard, and from there to Nigeria, Togo and finally Cote d’Ivoire.

I would like to extend my appreciation to the Government of the Netherlands for granting me full cooperation, despite some initial hesitation which I received from some stakeholders. In particular, I would like to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for facilitating and organizing my visit. I would also like to thank members of civil society and parliamentarians who arranged my meetings with non-governmental organizations and parliamentary committees.

During my mission, I visited a variety of stakeholders including the Ministry of Transport, and its Inspectorate; Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment and its Inspectorate; the Parliamentarians of the Standing Committee on the Environment; Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Public Prosecutor, Mr. Luuk Boogert; the Amsterdam City Council; Amsterdam Port Authorities; Amsterdam Port Services; Saybolt International; civil society; Trafigura and Lord Fraser of Carmygille who has been contracted by Trafigura to do an independent enquiry on the Probo Koala case.

My visit to the Netherlands has enabled me to get a clearer picture of what was the chronology of events while the Probo Koala was in Amsterdam and to ascertain whether the relevant procedures were followed in the aborted discharge of the waste and subsequent permission of the ship to sail to Estonia. However, due to the pending legal proceedings on this case before the Dutch Courts, I was unable to receive all the relevant information that I require for my investigation. I wish to particularly acknowledge the assistance of the public prosecutor in spite of legal limitations.

I want to note that the Dutch authorities were desirous of implementing all relevant procedures while the Probo Koala was docked in the Port of Amsterdam. According to information I have received, the authorities tried to stop the Probo Koala from leaving the Port of Amsterdam. However, due to the imprecise nature of regulations and the possibility of damage claims against the Municipality of Amsterdam for detaining the ship, the Port Authorities allowed it to leave the Port. The WVVS (Prevention of Marine Pollution Act) needs to be strengthened to allow relevant authorities to detain a vessel for a reasonable period of time, should they suspect the vessel of being a possible exporter of waste, or if the information declared by the ship regarding its cargo is incomplete or incorrect and therefore meriting further investigation.

I would like to call upon the Government of the Netherlands to provide more technical support to Cote d’Ivoire to enable the latter to effectively monitor the long-term human health and environmental effects of the incident. It was clear to me during my visit to Cote d’Ivoire, two years after the dumping took place, that there was still a lot of work to be done. Not all the dumpsites had been decontaminated and there was a lack of health facilities and access to healthcare, as well as experts to deal with the scale of the health consequences for the victims. These problems still remain and they need to be dealt with urgently and Cote d’Ivoire will require assistance to do this.

I would also like to see increased cooperation among human rights and environmental NGOs and government agencies in raising public awareness about the grave adverse effects on human rights of toxic and dangerous products and wastes, such as in the situation that occurred in Amsterdam in July 2006.

It is crucial that the Government of the Netherlands be more vigilant in monitoring the operations of corporate bodies such as those of Trafigura Beveer BV. The Government of the Netherlands has the State ‘duty to protect’ the human rights of citizens under both domestic and international law. Among other things, this duty entails pursuing legal proceedings against both individuals and corporate bodies implicated in the Probo Koala case, to the extent that they have violated regulations. This is necessary in order to remind all corporations that they are not above the law and have a responsibility to protect human rights and the environment.

Thank you