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Thursday, March 9, 2000

Bhopal tragedy: NY lawyer seeks more damages from Carbide

From Shyam Bhatia
DH News Service

A New York lawyer representing the victims of the 1984 Bhopal tragedy is seeking additional damages from Union Carbide and its former chairman, Warren Anderson, for the gas leak in which 3000 people were killed and 200,000 others injured after 40 tonnes of poisonous chemicals were released from a pesticide plant.

At least a dozen private investigators are searching the length and breadth of the United States for former Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson who headed the company that is blamed for one of the world`s worst industrial accidents.

Union Carbide says it had agreed to 470 million dollars in a civil case brought by the Government of India in 1989 and no further compensation is necessary.

It also says the 1989 settlement covers all former employees, including Mr Anderson who retired as chairman 12 years ago.

''The suit is against Union Carbide and Warren Anderson, those are the two defendants we succeeded in serving a summons,`` says lawyer Kenneth McCallion who has agreed to represent the Bhopal victims. We have been unsuccessful so far with regard to Anderson.

''He` gone to that place where individuals who violate fundamental human rights go, wherever that might be. If you find him give him my regards, there is a non bailable arrest warrant out for him from the Bhopal District Court.

Mr Anderson, who has homes in Florida and Long Island, New York, has disappeared since attempts were made late last year to serve him with a summons from a New York federal court.

''We keep trying; we have people out looking for him,`` says Mr McCallion. ''I can`t give you specific numbers. We have one organisation we work with in situations like this; they have a network they work with in different locations in an attempt to find people. We have asked them to spare no expense and do whatever is necessary.

''As you probably know there are limited funds available from the victims and victim organisations. The disaster fell disproportionately on those least able to afford it. It was a very poor neighbourhood. We are doing what we can and the victims organisations are doing what they can do to assist.`` The case against Mr Anderson is being brought under a little known US law, the Alien Torts Act, under which foreigners are permitted to sue for human rights violations in a US court.

Similar legislation was used in the past to prosecute former Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos and some recent Bosnian war criminals.

''If we find him we will serve him and he will then have to respond,`` adds Mr McCallion. ''There is a federal summons against him based on the case we filed against him in New York. He would either have to respond or default.

''We have filed a complaint against him on behalf of the victims in a New York federal court.

''He has a nice house in Florida and a nice house in Long Island. Its just that he doesn`t live there.`` India has initiated criminal proceedings against Mr Anderson after notifying Interpol that he is a fugitive. His last known address, currently vacant, is 1111 South Catalina Court, Vero beach Florida.

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