(EnergyAsia, December 29 2011, Thursday) — Amnesty International has reported that a Dutch court has upheld a guilty verdict against European commodities trader Trafigura for illegally exporting and dumping toxic waste that affected the health of thousands of people in the West African country of Côte d’Ivoire.

Hailing the decision as “an important step towards justice” for the victims, Amnesty International said the judge rejected Trafigura’s appeal against its previous conviction for illegally delivering hazardous waste to Amsterdam while concealing its true nature, and then exporting the cargo to Côte D’Ivoire in 2006.

Benedetta Lacey, a special advisor at Amnesty International who has visited Côte d’Ivoire and met victims of the dumping, said:

“This is a damning verdict against Trafigura which has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

“The verdict is clear: Trafigura is criminally accountable for having concealed the harmful nature of the waste on delivery in Amsterdam and for having illegally exported the waste to Cote d’Ivoire. In particular we welcome the court’s finding that EU regulations on hazardous waste did apply in this case.”

The appeal verdict found that the municipality of Amsterdam was able to claim immunity from prosecution for having allowed the toxic waste to leave the Netherlands. Amsterdam Port Services (APS), a Dutch company that had been initially contracted by Trafigura to dispose of the waste, was also cleared of any criminal charges after the appeal court upheld the previous court’s decision that APS had made an ‘excusable error of law’.

“Whilst this is a significant step towards justice there are still many unanswered questions. The Dutch prosecution focussed on events and legal breaches which occurred in the Netherlands alone. It did not consider the impact of the dumping in Côte D’Ivoire or illegal acts committed abroad,” said Ms Lacey.

“States must ensure that multinational companies are prosecuted for illegal conduct that leads to human rights abuses both at home and abroad.”

Amnesty said that Trafigura off-loaded waste from a ship in Amsterdam for disposal in July 2006. A month later, it then reloaded and dumped it in various locations around the city of Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire.

Following the dumping, Amnesty said more than 100,000 people sought medical attention for a range of health problems that included 15 reported deaths.