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Bhopal tragedy: 'Decision to summon Dow a big step'

July 24, 2013 16:31 IST

Terming court's decision to summon Dow Chemicals in the Bhopal gas tragedy case as an "important step", Amnesty International today demanded that the company must acknowledge its responsibility towards the survivors of the 1984 industrial disaster.

A district court in Bhopal on Tuesday directed the authorities concerned to send summons to the US-based Dow Chemicals, making it an accused in the Bhopal gas tragedy.

"The court decision is an important step in ensuring corporate accountability for the devastating consequences of the Bhopal gas leak tragedy," Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

"US chemical giant Dow Chemical Company must acknowledge its responsibility towards survivors of the devastating Bhopal industrial disaster," Amnesty, which works towards human rights protection, said after the company was summoned to appear before a court in Bhopal.

The company has been ordered to explain why its wholly-owned subsidiary, Union Carbide Corporation, has repeatedly ignored court summons in the ongoing criminal case concerning the 1984 Bhopal disaster, where UCC is accused of "culpable homicide not amounting to murder".

"Dow has always tried to claim it has nothing to do with UCC's liability for Bhopal, but the court has made it clear that Dow itself has the responsibility to ensure that UCC aces the outstanding charges against it. Dow can no longer turn its back on the tens of thousands still suffering in Bhopal," it said.

Almost three decades after the Bhopal disaster, victims and their families are awaiting adequate compensation from UCC or the government.

The impact of the tragedy continues to be felt today. Some 100,000 people continue to suffer health problems. Ongoing pollution from toxic waste at the former factory site has never been addressed, the statement said.

Research conducted by Amnesty International in December 2012 found that, since the gas leak, women in Bhopal have reported serious ongoing health issues, including gynaecological and reproductive health disorders.

UCC held a majority share in Union Carbide India Ltd, the Indian company which operated the pesticide plant responsible for the 1984 Bhopal gas leak, which it is estimated killed more than 22,000 people, the statement said.

"In 1987, the Indian government brought criminal charges of "culpable homicide not amounting to murder" against UCC and its former chairman Warren Anderson.

"Since then, UCC has repeatedly ignored court summons in India and is yet to face justice for its role in the Bhopal disaster. Anderson escaped trial by simply living abroad. A request by the Indian government for his extradition is still pending with the US government," it said.

Dow has owned UCC since 2001 but has consistently denied responsibility for any UCC liability in relation to Bhopal, ignoring calls by survivors and human rights groups to address the ongoing environmental and health impacts of the disaster.

"But today's court ruling means Dow must explain to the Bhopal chief judicial magistrate why it has failed to ensure its subsidiary appears in court," the statement added.

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