For immediate release:
May 9, 2005
Activists join nations around the world to demand justice for Bhopal victims
On May 11, Amnesty International members and supporters, along with the group Students for Bhopal, will participate in demonstrations at Dow Chemical (Dow) facilities around the country, including those in Texas and California. The protests, staged the day before Dow’s Annual General Meeting, demand that Dow/Union Carbide Company (UCC) stops evading its responsibilities for the consequences of the 1984 gas leak at the UCC pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. These demonstrations will reinforce the concerns voiced in approximately 40,000 postcards, letters and petitions sent to Dow since last December from people in 22 countries.
More than 7,000 people died within a matter of days when toxic gases leaked from a UCC chemical plant in Bhopal, India in December 1984. Between the beginning of 1983 and the time of the disaster, a series of cost-cutting measures were implemented, and damaged or malfunctioning equipment was patched up rather than repaired, or replaced by sub-standard material. Today, twenty years after the Bhopal disaster, exposure to the toxins has resulted in the deaths of a further 15,000 people. Stockpiles of contaminants continue to pollute the water and soil, on which entire communities rely, affecting the health of those living in the area. As of February 2001, UCC is a fully-owned subsidiary of Dow.
For the international day of action, protestors will deliver contaminated Bhopal water and jhadoos-traditional Indian brooms-as a symbol of Amnesty International’s demand that Dow-Carbide fully decontaminate and clean up the pollution it left behind, and provide full restitution for the damage caused to people’s health and environment. Amnesty also demands that Dow-Carbide face justice: since 1991, UCC has refused to appear to face criminal charges of culpable homicide associated with the Bhopal disaster, and representatives of the company have been officially declared “absconders” by the Indian Government. Protestors will “serve” the company with an official summons from the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court in Bhopal.
“Massive suffering resulted from the UCC leak, yet Dow-Carbide continues to evade its responsibilities under the law,” said Amy O’Meara of Amnesty International USA. “Dow must ensure that Union Carbide appear before the Bhopal Court. Victims have the right to be heard in court, and multinational companies shouldn’t be able to skip town or hide behind subsidiaries or mergers. This case tragically demonstrates that transnational companies need to be better regulated to eliminate corporate complicity in human rights abuses.”
Amnesty International is also part of a group of Dow Chemical shareholders that has been seeking fuller disclosure of risks and liabilities associated with Bhopal. In 2004, shareholders filed a resolution, led by Boston Common Asset Management, requiring the management of Dow to prepare a report describing new initiatives instituted by the management to address the specific health, environmental and social concerns of Bhopal survivors. The resolution was supported by large pension funds like the City of New York and CalPERS, labor unions and foundations. This year, Amnesty joins these shareholders again to express outrage over a recent SEC decision allowing Dow to strike a similar resolution from this year’s ballot. Amnesty International offices around the world have sent letters to the top shareholders of Dow Chemical, including 100 top investors in the US including Fidelity, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and Merrill Lynch, alerting them to this lack of disclosure and asking them to demand information from Dow about the liabilities associated with Bhopal.
On May 12, a representative of Amnesty International will attend the Dow Chemical shareholder meeting in Midland, Michigan, to draw attention to the human rights abuses that continue to occur in Bhopal as a result of the explosion and to address the company’s CEO, Andrew Liveris. Thomas Benner, an Amnesty member from Carmel, Indiana, will present a copy of the court summons to Liveris, and ask for justice for the victims.
Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW) is the world’s largest chemicals manufacturer, with 2004 revenues exceeding $40 billion.
More information, including the Amnesty International report “Clouds of Injustice”, is available at http://www.amnestyusa.org/business/bhopal_action.html.
Amy O’Meara, Amnesty International (212-633-4288)
Ryan Bodanyi, Students for Bhopal (401-829-6192)
Lauren Compere, Boston Common Asset Management (617-720-5557)