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Toxic waste: UN Expert releases report on ‘Probo Koala’ incident

16 September 2009

GENEVA – “We still don’t know -and we may never know- the full effect of the dumping of 500 tons of toxic waste in Cote d'Ivoire,” said UN expert Okechukwu Ibeanu, “but there seems to be strong prima facie evidence that the reported deaths and adverse health consequences are related to the dumping of the waste from the cargo ship ‘Probo Koala’”.

The Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights will present to the press his report to the Human Rights Council concerning the incident. The press conference will take place on Thursday 17 September 2009, at 11:00, in Press Room I at the Palais des Nations, Geneva.

In August 2006, the ‘Probo Koala’ dumped 500 tons of toxic waste belonging to the Dutch commodity trading company Trafigura in various sites in the district of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. According to official estimates, there were 15 deaths, 69 persons hospitalised and more than 108,000 medical consultations resulting from the incident. Prior to its journey to Côte d’Ivoire, the ‘Probo Koala’ had inter alia docked in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The report contains the findings and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur concerning his official visits to Côte d’Ivoire and the Netherlands, undertaken as part of his efforts to examine the effects on the enjoyment of human rights of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous wastes arising from the incident.

Without prejudice to legal proceedings in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom concerning the exact composition and toxic nature of the waste in question, Ibeanu encouraged all actors involved to take all necessary measures“to address possible long-term human health and environmental effects of the incident.”

“Further action should be taken to protect the right to life, the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and the right to a healthy environment of all affected victims and their families,” stressed the Special Rapporteur.