It was February 14th, 2012, when a historic decision was made by an Italian Court in Turin.
After a 12 years legal procedure and investigation, Stephan Schmidheiny (65 years old), owner of the Swiss-Belgian industrial group Eternit (ETEX), which was in turn a major shareholder of the Italian subsidiary of Eternit between 1976 and 1986 and the Belgian Baron Jean-Louis de Cartier de Marchienne (90 years old), who was a director and minority shareholder of Eternit Italy, they were both sentenced to 16 years prison by an Italian court in Turin.
Of course the verdicts are not effective until final, meaning the defendants have the right to go to a Court of Appeal and to the Supreme Court before they must undergo their verdicts.
Schmidheiny and Cartier de Marchienneare considered responsible for the death of 3.000 Italians, including employees, family members and other persons in the vicinity of Eternit’s four factories in Italy. Each of them is entitled to compensations of 95 million € for victims and their families, municipalities and regional authorities, independently of the compensations that the company will be entitled.
The initial investigation started in 1999, after victims’ associations, municipalities involved (Casale Monferatto and Cavagnolo), regional authorities (Piemonte) trade unions and insurers filed a case against the company and its responsible directors.
If you want to find full details of the case, please visit the dedicated blog asbestos in the dock
I really believe that this is verdict with global consequences.
As far as I know this is the first decision that recognizes so serious and huge consequences of inappropriate solid waste management! It creates new standards about what should be considered safe and environmental sound working environment and about environmental impacts to the neighborhoods.
It also recognizes the importance of the time horizon: inappropriate solid waste management creates serious environmental and health impacts for decades after the completion of waste management activities!
Last but not least, the case is very important because through web – connections and blogs it was globally followed by almost sixty asbestos victims associations. The efforts of the Italian association were fully supported by top experts from different countries, asbestos lawyers shared crucial information on a global scale and the international asbestos community became stronger and more connected. The case will allow asbestos victims worldwide to gain access to evidence that was previously either unknown or simply unavailable.
I think that the waste management community has to celebrate about that decision. And decision – makers, governments, municipalities, operators and companies have to re-think the importance they give (or do not give) to waste management procedures and activities…
1 Comment
  1. Antonis Mavropoulos 12 years ago

    Here is a comment by George Sbokos, a lawyer specialized in environmentla issues:

    "It must have been the third year of me practicing law. In front of the doctor's praxis, I was trying to recall how that art of cancer was called. Something like mesotheliom, which actually sounded very greek to me. That was one of the first meetings I made in solving a similar case of a former greek "gastarbeiter" in Germany's heavy indusrty.

    Pleural Mesotheliom, commonly lung cancer caused by asbestos, actually by inhaling small particles of that stuff is well known in Germany because of the hundreds of compensation cases.

    In the meetings followed, it became clear, that Europe?s developed North, automatically considers Pleural Mesotheliom as a "working decease" (to be distinguished from "working accident"). No court decision is needed. The patient after being diagnosed receives a lump sum of compensation immediately and a pension for the rest of his unfortunately short life. The pension continues for the living spouse.

    The recognition of the decease has to be an achievement of a trade union movement like IG METAL or similar, known for its effectiveness in Germany.

    In memory of Mr. Emmanuel, a proud gastarbeiter …

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