President Obama Urged Speak Up on Bhopal Disaster

Press Release
January 25, 2015

President Obama Urged Speak Up on Bhopal Disaster

A U.S. company failing to comply with legitimate court order should be explained.

On the eve of President Obama’s trip to India to be the chief guest of India’s Republic Day celebrations, Amnesty International USA urged him to speak up about the Bhopal industrial disaster at a factory owned by US-based company Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), killing 20,000 and injuring thousands more. Even after thirty years, people continue to suffer from the impact of the disaster and the site is not cleaned up.

The failure of President Obama to speak up will embolden US-based companies to ignore accountability for their involvement in human rights abuses. While he is celebrating Republic day, the president should not forget the people of Bhopal, who still suffer from the effects of the disaster.

President Obama should also explain why a US-based company, the Dow Chemical Company (which owns UCC now), is ignoring repeated summons by an Indian Court to explain why its wholly owned subsidiary has failed to appear in India to face serious criminal charges against it in relation to the disaster.

These actions by President Obama will set the course for US-based companies to seriously consider the welfare of Indian citizens affected by their actions. While promoting US business interest in India, President Obama should not ignore the welfare of Indian citizens.

Background:

On the night of December 2, 1984, approximately 54,000 pounds of the highly toxic methyl-isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL)’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, killing an estimated 20,000 people. More than 570,000 people were exposed to the gas and developed severe, long-term health problems, including children born to parents exposed to the gas.

Thousands of survivors, their children and grandchildren continue to face crippling disabilities and illness. Toxic pollution from the accident severely contaminated the soil and groundwater around the site, poisoning new generations who suffer from high rates of cancer, birth defects and developmental problems.

Warren Anderson, the Chief Executive Officer of UCC at the time of the disaster, fled India while on bail and eluded multiple requests by the Indian government to extradite him until his death on September 29, 2014.

Most recently, The Dow Chemical Company, which now owns Union Carbide Corporation, has been issued summons to appear in court in India to explain why it is allowing its wholly owned subsidiary to evade charges for the disaster. Dow ignored these summons in three separate instances in July 2013, February 2014 and November 2014.