Tag Archives: Legal

Diane Wilson faces jail for Dow protest

Diane Wilson, “famed shrimp-boat-captain-turned-activist and merciless scourge of Dow”, attends a Texan court on Monday, 26 Jan for a jury trial. She’s facing charges of criminal trespass and resisting arrest, stemming from her August, 2002 protest action at the former Carbide plant in Seadrift, Texas. If convicted, Diane will have to serve around three to six months in jail. For climbing over a low fence and up a 90ft tower, damaging nothing and harming no one. During the action, Diane herself was harmed, however, by four members of a SWAT team who gouged at her hands and cut her arm. You can read Diane’s gripping and funny account of the action here.

In July 2002, a month prior to the offending action, Diane explained why she was compelled to protest on behalf Bhopal’s survivors: “Bhopal is a symbol of the unfinished business of justice that lies before all mankind.” Diane knows what she’s talking about, having visited Bhopal in 1992. The experience persuaded her to put her body on the line in the most literal way: she set up camp outside Dow and stopped eating for thirty days. You can read the amazing diary of this time here. Remarkably, it was not the first time Diane had risked her health for a higher value. “You have to follow your vision and maintain your integrity,” Diane told Futurenet of a previous battle with Formosa Plastics, responsible for polluting the bay she and four generations of her family fished in. “Once you cross the commitment boundary, miracles start to happen.” Such a miracle saved a relative – but not Diane’s dog – from bullets fired from a helicopter during the fight with Formosa. “When you can smell your (own) fear, you’re on the right track.”

The only fear we smell in this case is Dow’s; fear that their criminal disregard for human life in Bhopal and elsewhere will be dragged into the light. In bringing the criminal complaint against Diane for a technical infringement of rules of trespass, it would appear that Dow hold an evangelical belief in the letter of the law. Well, it’s either this or that the company responsible for harbouring mass homicidal “fugitive from justice” Carbide is a vicious and brazen hypocrite. Thankfully Dow spokesman Jon Musser settled this quandary for us last month, when he answered a question about pending homicide charges put by the Michigan Daily News: “the Indian government has no jurisdiction over Union Carbide or Mr. Anderson; therefore, they are not appearing in court.” As Diane puts it, “companies like Dow make a mockery of justice. They invoke the law when it suits them and ignore it when it doesn’t.”

If you’d like to tell Dow what you think of their double standards, read on.

If, like Diane, you’ve decided that “there comes a time when you simply have to act”, there are a few things you could do right now.

THINGS YOU CAN DO

IN TEXAS:

Send a letter of protest – model DOC1 here – to:

Dan W. Heard
Calhoun County Criminal District Attorney
PO Box 1001
Port Lavaca, Texas 77979
USA
Tel. 351/553-4422
Fax. 361/553-442
Email: dan@cccda.org

Greg Abbott
Attorney General of Texas
Office of the Attorney General
PO Box 12548
Austin, TX 78711-2548
Email: greg.abbott@oag.state.tx.us

Diane’s local newspaper (letters page):

The Port Lavaca Wave
107 East Austin
P.O. Box 88
Texas
USA
Tel. 361/552-9788
Fax 361/552-3108
Email: sbales@plwave.com

AGAINST DOW:

1. Call Dow HQ in Michigan on 1-800-232-2436 demanding that Dow accept its liabilities and clean up its mess in Bhopal (see full list of demands at the bottom of the page). Gee up on the facts beforehand.

2. Demonstrate outside your nearest Dow facility. Same demands. Give them brooms so they get the point. List of Dow facilities:
North America
Asia-Pacific
Africa
Latin America
Europe
India and the Middle East
You can find 20 downloadble posters for these actions here. Other resources here.

3. Email strong protests to Dow media contacts listed here. Alternatively, go straight to the horse’s mouth: jmusser@dow.com . Try adapting this style of address for other Dow personnel, such as the Dow board members. You can find a list of them here.

4. Sign an electronic petition. If you are a member of any union, go here. If you are a faculty member, go here.

5. If you’re a student, join Students For Bhopal and get your campus active.

6. If you are a citizen, write to your nearest elected representative and urge them to to write to Dow demanding they accept their responsibilities in Bhopal. Ask them to raise the issue in the appropriate forum.

7.Ask your union to adopt a resolution on Bhopal. Do the same with your city council.

8. Copy this and pass it on to your friends. (We can’t afford advertising.)

9. If you can afford it, contribute money to the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal and/or the Bhopal Medical Appeal.

10. Let us know what you’re doing: tim@bhopal.net

PIC1
PRESS RELEASE
Embargoed Until 12.01am, Monday 26th Jan 2003

Texan Fisherwoman’s Bhopal Protest Ends in Criminal Case
Dow Chemical Making ‘A Mockery of the Law’

Port Lavaca, Texas, 9.00 am, 26 Jan – Local fisherwoman and environmental campaigner Diane Wilson appears in court today for a jury trial relating to a protest action at The Dow Chemical Company’s Seadrift plant.

On 26th August, 2002, Ms Wilson scaled a 90ft tower and unfurled a 12 ft banner that read ‘Dow – Responsible For Bhopal’, referring to the world’s worst industrial disaster, caused when 27 tons of poison gases escaped from a Union Carbide pesticide factory, killing thousands within hours and injuring more than 500,000 other people in the sleeping city.

As a result of the action Ms Wilson faces charges of criminal trespass and resisting arrest that could lead to six months in jail.

Ms Wilson, who had ended a 30-day hunger-strike outside the Seadrift plant before scaling the ethylene oxide tower, was yesterday unrepentant.

“I was protesting that for 12 years Dow’s subsidiary Union Carbide has been refusing to attend a court in India where it stands charged with culpable homicide for the deaths of more than 20,000 people. Carbide killed thousands then jumped bail, I never harmed a soul but it’s me in the dock facing criminal charges. Truly, companies like Dow make a mockery of justice. They invoke the law when it suits them and ignore it when it doesn’t.”

The criminal case against Union Carbide and its former CEO Warren Anderson has been ongoing since October 1991. In 1992, an Indian court published notices in the Washington Post declaring both parties “fugitives from justice” after they avoided service of arrest warrants delivered by Interpol. Dow became the 100% owner of Union Carbide in February 2001, despite widespread warnings about the criminal charges outstanding against the company. Carbide also faces a Class Action in New York regarding massive environmental contamination left at its former factory in Bhopal.

On May 26th 2003, following widespread protests in India and elsewhere, the Indian government asked the US authorities for Warren Anderson’s extradition to face trial in India. Anderson remains at large and Dow refuses to pay for cleaning up the toxic wastes left by Union Carbide at the factory site.

Last year, Congressman Frank Pallone and a dozen of his colleagues in the House wrote a letter to Dow and filed an amicus in the New York action.

“It’s outrageous that we will soon mark the 20th Anniversary of this tragic event and Dow Chemical has still not stepped forward to take full responsibility for the actions of Union Carbide,” Pallone said recently. “It is unacceptable to allow an American company not only the opportunity to exploit international borders and legal jurisdictions but also the ability to evade civil and criminal liability for environmental pollution and abuses committed overseas.”

Health workers in Bhopal say that chemicals leaking from Union Carbide’s abandoned and derelict factory have poisoned local drinking wells with carcinogens that can cause liver damage, cancers and birth defects, creating another health epidemic among communities already exposed to the original disaster. Dow does not dispute that the chemicals come from the factory but has suggested that the clean-up should be paid for by the victims of the disaster out of the fund established for their relief.

Nearly 20 years after the catastrophe that local people still simply call “that night”, Bhopal’s doctors have no proper medical protocols for treating the city’s 150,000 chronically ill. Crucial medical data from more than 15 studies into the long term effects of the poisons, which could save lives, is still being withheld by Union Carbide on the grounds that it is a “trade secret”.

“In such cases,” Ms Wilson said, “good citizens have not just the right but also the duty to protest. We cannot stand by and watch Dow and Union Carbide thumbing their noses at the law while their victims die — it’s a measure of how far they can pervert justice that protesting against their law-breaking is portrayed as a criminal act.”

Ms. Wilson added that, if imprisoned, she would continue her protest and begin an indefinite hungerstrike in jail.

CONTACT

Diane Wilson, 361-785-3907, cell phone- 361-676-0663

Claire from CodePink, 310-827-3046, www.codepinkalert.org

Ms Wilson’s protest focussed on the following demands of Dow:

1) Face Trial : Ensure that Union Carbide ceases to abscond from the
Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court in Bhopal and that authorized
representatives of Dow-Union Carbide face trial in the Bhopal.

2) Provide long term health care: Assume responsibility for the continuing
and long term health consequences among the exposed persons and their
children. This includes medical care, health monitoring and necessary
research studies. The company must provide all information on the health
consequences of the leaked gases.

3) Clean up the poison: Clean up toxic wastes and contaminated
groundwater in and around the Union Carbide factory site. Provide safe
drinking water to the community, and just compensation for those who
have been injured or made ill by this contamination.

4) Provide Economic and social support : The corporation must provide
income opportunities to victims who can not pursue their usual trade as a
result of exposure induced illnesses and income support to families
rendered destitute due to death or incapacitation of the breadwinner of the
family.

diane5forweb.jpg
Diane Wilson chained to Dow’s ethylene oxide tower & outside Warren Anderson’s house a few weeks later…

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US Congresspeople file amicus in Bhopal suit

“It is unacceptable to allow an American company not only the opportunity to exploit international borders and legal jurisdictions but also the ability to evade civil and criminal liability for environmental pollution and abuses committed overseas.” – Leading Congressman Frank Pallone, Times of India, 18th Oct.

This unequivocal statement announced the Amicus brief that has been filed with the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit by Congressman Pallone and eight other US lawmakers on behalf of the Bhopal survivors’ Class Action.

That’s the rotten news for Carbide. Now the unspeakable news for Daddy Dow: the brief urges the Court of Appeals to hold Dow responsible for Bhopal and exposes Dow’s refusal to accept liability for ongoing contamination as legally indefensible: “That [polluter pays] principle, has been affirmed by both international law and American common law and the appropriate means for addressing pollution or environmental harm regardless of where it occurs. That principle cannot be ignored simply because the polluter has abandoned its facility, sold its shares in a subsidy or otherwise effected change of ownership.”

Times of India
Congressman Pallone fights for Bhopal gas victims
IANS[ Saturday, October 18, 2003 12:43:59 PM ]

WASHINGTON: Leading Congressman Frank Pallone and eight other US
lawmakers, have filed an amicus brief on behalf of about 20,000 victims of the 1984 Union Carbide chemical disaster in Bhopal.

Pallone, co-founder of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian
Americans, and his colleagues have sent the 23-page brief to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. It urges the court to hold Dow Chemical, which acquired Union Carbide in 2001, responsible for the world’s biggest environmental disaster.

The brief, initiated by Pallone, comes in response to a March decision by a US District Judge in New York dismissing all claims against Dow Chemical. Victims then appealed to the Second Circuit, said a press release from Pallone’s office.

“There is strong support in Congress for holding those responsible for this horrific tragedy accountable for their actions,” he said. “It is unacceptable to allow an American company not only the opportunity to exploit international borders and legal jurisdictions but also the ability to evade civil and criminal liability for environmental pollution and abuses committed overseas.”

For the whole article click here.

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Now Euro MPs tell Dow, ‘He who pollutes must pay’

Dow must have imagined nobody would notice. Or mused that if your double standards are brazen enough, no one will point them out. From Kathy Hunt’s doe-eyed “but they don’t have Superfund over there, do they?” to Michael Parker’s dead-behind-the-eyes suggestion that the beggarly compensation money intended for gas survivors – yes, you read that correctly, gas survivors – should be used to clean up Carbide’s crime, ‘polluter pays’ was only something you did when you couldn’t possibly get away with it. Well it’s starting to look like Dow can’t. Having Congress on your back about it is bad enough, throw in the European parliament and it’s beginning to look like it might not be your year.

On September 24th members of the Green/FEA group announced that they would be “joining in the action that the members of the US Congress have started against the firm DOW.”

Press Statement

The Green / Free European Alliance

Strasbourg, September 24th, 2003

From Bhopal to Toulouse: no forgetting.

Two years after the Toulouse catastrophe, The Green / FEA group at the European Parliament, welcomed a delegation of victims of the Bhopal disaster (25000 dead, 50000 wounded) during the Parliamentary session of September 2003. At the end of the meeting, the group The Green / FEA pledged to support the fight of the Bhopal victims by joining in the action that the members of the US Congress have started against the firm DOW. The Green / FEA group will demand that the European Commission and the European Council implement all means necessary to give all citizens of Bhopal access to drinking water.

Nearly twenty years after the tragedy, justice hasn’t yet cast full light on the accident, thus delaying the right compensation of victims. While the European Union is discussing the question of environmental responsibility, while the debates at the European Council may weaken, yet a little more, the text voted by the European Parliament, it is indispensable to recall the obligations of the industrialists who work in high-risk sectors.

To enforce the principle ” polluter-payer ” (he who pollutes shall pay) is essential to ensure that justice is done and that industrial disasters victims are compensated. Moreover, the pollution of the soil and ground water, aggravated by systematic dumping of toxic products by DOW Union Carbide, keeps causing serious health problems and congenital malformations. No compensation often means not being able to get treatment. It must be said that in Bhopal, medical care is in a large extent, given freely thanks to determined actors of the Indian civil society, such as Satinath Sarangi wo runs the Sambhavna Clinic : there, treatment is provided freely to survivors. For nearly twenty years now, the environmental catastrophe has been followed by a health disaster.

In the background, the question of a policy of chemicals emerges. The report of Inger Schorling Swedish Green European MP- shows the limits of goodwill in a sector which could be tempted, should a more severe legislation be adopted, to transfer part of its activities to countries unable by lack of means- to enforce such strict laws.

Marie Anne Isler Béguin

Inger Schorling

Paul Lannoye

Members of The Green / FEA goup at the European Parliament

Translation by Carmela Pizarroso (Toulouse)

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"Clean is a relative word", says Indian Pepsi chief

CLEAN IS A RELATIVE WORD

By: Anil Thakraney
August 17, 2003

It’s one war they aren’t fighting with each other. PepsiCo and Coca-Cola – who between them enjoy a whopping $1.2 billion market in India, selling about 6.5 billion bottles annually – have been hit with a frightening report that questions the purity of their contents.

On one side are allegations, counter allegations, lawsuits, blinding scientific data and a plethora of confusing norms. And on the other, the enormously worried mom, whose son loads his water bottle with Pepsi.

To gauge what’s going on in this unusual cola war, let’s get up-close with Rajeev Bakshi, PepsiCo’s chairman, South Asia. Bakshi passed out from St Stephen’s in 1976, followed by IIM-B in 1979. His previous assignments have been GM – sales and marketing with Lakme, and MD, Cadbury India.

I meet the much-admired suit at his lush farmhouse in Delhi. It’s August 15. But Bakshi is seeking another form of freedom: liberation from the damning charges.

In this interview, are you representing Pepsi, or both, Coke and Pepsi?

As of now, I am speaking from the category’s point of view, but more specifically, Pepsi.

What’s the next step? Defamation case against the CSE?

We are going ahead with the process of clearing our name in a step-by-step manner. When we went to court, we made an above-board and well-intentioned plea to the judge. The plea was based on scientific grounds. We said we have been wronged… there has been a report that has been put up in the public domain, and that report has a problem. That, we are meeting the WHO standards, we are meeting the Indian law by a far margin. That, this report is alleging we are not meeting the EU standards, which is a new benchmark, and which is never measured across the world for soft drinks. Still, we said we’d contest that as well. Because we believe their testing methodology itself is faulty. That methodology is actually used for testing water, not soft drinks. And two, there are discrepancies in their report.

Except that the High Court dismissed your plea. So you must be disappointed.

No. Our first strategy was that given that there is a discrepancy, we asked the judge if this report can be suppressed. While arguing this with the judge, we withdrew that particular plea, because it was already in the public domain… the judge said it was not a key issue.

If you had to withdraw, why did you enter the plea in the first instance?

It is the way of putting the entire case in a court. Basically, our lawyers said we had to do it in three steps. One, ask to withdraw the complaint, because it’s wrong. Two, request the judge to get an independent scientific body to enquire into the issue, and then, come to a conclusion as to what this is all about. And the third step: let an independent report come out, and at that point of time, we reserve the right to press charges, or whatever else, depending on the outcome. We felt it was unwise for us to press charges upfront. Because that would have meant prejudging the entire issue.

Don’t you think asking the courts for suppression of the report is unethical? It is a public interest report, after all. Isn’t this a case of SLAPPing? (In the US, this controversial practice is termed, ‘Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation’.)

What the SLAPP says is, if anybody makes an allegation like this in America, ‘withdraw it from the public domain, have a private conversation, and then arrive at a judgement’. Since there is no law to that effect out here, we are saying, ‘the report is wrong, so can they withdraw the report itself’.

Except that the plea got dismissed. What is your next step?

As far as we are concerned, the health ministry is looking into the matter. The judge has ordered an independent evaluation. It’s not clear to me what the modus operandi of that is. So we have to wait for that to happen.

Do you believe the CSE has a hidden agenda against Coke and Pepsi?

As far as I am concerned, I am taking everything at face value. So, in public, I am not going into what their motivations could be.

Do you think if you were a desi company, this may not have happened?

My only problem as far as the CSE is concerned, is the process.

I am talking of the intent.

I cannot comment on that.

But can you rule out evil intent?

(Pause.) At this stage, I don’t know. It could be either way, but I don’t know. Once the results come out, I guess all will get cleared.

Talking of technique… during the same tests, they did also check the American samples… and they emerged fine.

Look, I am well within the law, even as per the results declared by them. I am also well within WHO standards.

The study indicates you have contamination that, for Pepsi, is as high as 35 times the EU norms.

That’s comparison with the water norms of EU. There are no standards for pesticides in soft drinks anywhere in the world. It is assumed that the water you use will have this sort of pesticides. Even if I assume that figure to be correct, though that figure has been blown out of proportion, if I tell you the number for juices, you will jump! But if you look at the norms we have been following till January 2003, which are the US standards, the WHO standards, and the BIS standards, we are well within that. Suddenly if you change the goalpost, and the reference of comparison, then you have to respond to that. I am saying, I am absolutely safe, and within the norms, even as per their report, which I am contesting.

So why aren’t you following the EU norms?

Very honestly, till January this year, we have been following the BIS norms, and the US norms, for water. Suddenly, in January, came a report from the same organisation, which said ‘these people are 1.5 times out of EU norms’. So we said, “Oh, what’s this benchmark now?” That process had not been mandated yet. Then when we tested internally, we found we anyway follow the EU norms, by default.

How can you not be aware of the EU norms… you are a global company operating across the world?

But internationally the specification is American norms, which we thought was good enough, and more than safe.

So then how come the American samples tested clean?

Clean is a relative word.

Relative? We have been given the exact degree of contamination and the names of contaminants.

Point is, you will find pesticides in 100 per cent of the products that you eat or drink. The question is, what is the safe amount?

And yours is 35 times higher!

You are saying that figure is a big deal? Let me give you other figures. In the EU, on milk, the overall pesticides standard is 7,000 times over what it is for water! And they consider this safe! So this 35 times is a marketing figure… it won’t impact your health at all. Even if you take their report to be correct, it’s one-sixth of the Indian legal norm.

Do you think it’s the fault of our water in India…. that it sucks?

I think we need to lay this water thing to rest. I have checked the raw water, across all my plants, and except for four plants, it’s within the EU standards even when it emerges from the earth. The reason could also be that we locate our plants quite carefully. Speaking in general, there is no generic data on pesticides in ground water.

Next. What percentage of Pepsi’s consumers are minors?

About 30 per cent.

Why should worried parents believe you, not CSE? What would you like to say to them?

First, the emotional reason. We have been around for many years, we operate in many countries, we have been offering quality products, so it is very difficult to imagine we’d offer substandard products. Two, even if you think that these people have done their work rightly, with honesty, and we take their figures at face value, I can tell your readers that this level of pesticides is perfectly safe. It is still not harmful. Because, if you take the EU standard for water, and compare it with the Indian standard for milk, the DDT in milk is twelve-and-a-half thousand times over the EU standard.

So if it’s okay to drink the colas, despite the CSE findings, why are you contesting their report?

Because there is a public perception that has been created, through damaging press reports, which has made us look very irresponsible. A public perception has been created that this ’35 times’ is bad, and I am saying, even if it’s correct, it’s okay. You won’t get cancer. Still, we are contesting the report, and saying we are much safer than that.

Nothing will happen to the kids over a period of time?

No way!

The big question. Suppose the study ordered by the health ministry, using the technique that you believe in, vindicates the CSE’s findings, what will you do?

(Long pause) It’s a hypothetical question. So we’ll take it as it comes. However, as far as tightening of processes goes, it’s an inward process. So if that happens, we’ll tighten our standards even more.

Next. A number of people were disappointed at yours and Sanjeev Gupta’s [boss of Coca Cola] reaction to the study. There was no show of concern at all. Rather, you were busy threatening legal action.

I didn’t talk of legal action.

Of course you did… we saw it on TV.

Sanjeev Gupta said it on his own volition, I didn’t.

Yeah, but that evening, both of you were on the same side of the fence.

We were on the same dais. And giving out own points of view.

Why didn’t you even attempt to reassure nervous parents? Promise them that you will get to the bottom of this issue.

When the water controversy broke out earlier this year, our response was precisely what you are saying. We came out with a very defensive response at that time. We said, ‘we are meeting the norms, still, let’s study this and get back to you’. We went back to the media after 15 days, and they refused to publish it. Because the story was dead by then. Now, after we’ve been had once, when our part of the story never came across, and because we were confident about our data, we went to the public with it.

People out there don’t understand tests and techniques… they are worried parents, looking for assurance.

Yeah, but 24 hours later, I would have had to come back to the same point: the data. The stance would have still been aggressive. Because the decibel level of the attack was very high. It was almost a personal attack.

Have you registered a drop in sales since August 5?

Yes, sales have been affected.

How much?

I cannot reveal the figures. (See this report.)

How did your kids react when they heard the CSE story?

(Slight pause.) They asked me if this was correct, and I said ‘no’. They believed it.

They still drink Pepsi?

The elder one drinks Diet Pepsi, the younger one is slightly more fussy.

She drinks Coke?

(Laughs.)

Rajeev has every reason to laugh. Later, at a papdi-chaat joint in Dilli’s Bengali Market, I spot a Hindu Undivided Family devouring gallons of Pepsi. I ask the patriarch if he isn’t worried. Ratan Lal Khurana says he sure is, but he can’t help it. “Ki karen. Bachiano gussa chadega.” [What to do? The kids will get angry.]

Tests show Pepsi, Coke to be contamined with poisons

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Bhopal court rejects application to dilute charges against Carbide CEO Anderson

We have just had a phone call from Bhopal to tell us that the criminal charges against former Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson are not to be diluted. “The women are literally dancing in the streets,” said our caller.

Speaking from Johannesburg where Bhopal supporters have been protesting against the presence of Dow Chemicals at the Earth Summit, Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action, which opposed the application to dilute, said “The Indian Government must now pursue extradition proceedings against Warren Anderson without delay.”

Meanwhile we have had a report that Mr Anderson has been sighted and photographed in the USA, where the law enforcement agencies have apparently been unable to trace him. Anyone who knows anything about this please contact us with more information.(But please, no Elvis-type sightings and no need to spy on your neighbours.)

Find key excerpts of the judgement, translated from Hindi here.

Tim Edwards, of the UK Campaign speaks on BBC TV.

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