(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – As part of its ongoing efforts to ensure justice for survivors of the toxic gas disaster in Bhopal, India, Amnesty International USA is urging The Dow Chemical Company (Dow) to comply with a summons to appear at a July 4 hearing to explain why its 100% owned subsidiary, Union Carbide Corporation, has repeatedly ignored summons to appear before the court in an ongoing criminal case concerning the disaster. The 1984 gas leak in Bhopal caused tens of thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of cases of chronic health problems. Amnesty International organized a rally Tuesday outside Dow's Washington offices to pressure the company to comply with the summons.
T. Kumar, International Advocacy Director at Amnesty International USA and an expert on global human rights, said the following in response to the summons:
"Dow should not hide from the summons. Why is Dow afraid to face the courts in Bhopal?
"We are closer than ever to realizing justice. It's critical that we keep public pressure on Dow to attend the July 4 court hearing to ensure meaningful corporate accountability for the victims of the Bhopal disaster and their families."
Hundreds of thousands of survivors of one of the world's worst industrial disasters – the 1984 catastrophic gas leak at the Union Carbide India Limited plant in Bhopal, India – are still waiting for justice.
An estimated 7,000 to 10,000 people died within three days of the leak. In the first three weeks after the accident, more than 160,000 people were treated at the city's hospitals. More than 570,000 people were exposed to damaging levels of toxic gas, and many continue to suffer a range of chronic and debilitating illnesses as a result of their exposure to the toxic fumes.
A court in Bhopal has issued a summons to Dow to appear on July 4, 2014, before the court to explain why its wholly owned subsidiary UCC has repeatedly refused to appear in the ongoing criminal case concerning the disaster.
UCC is – and was at the time it was purchased by Dow in 2001 – a proclaimed absconder by the Indian courts, a company that did not pay damages commensurate with the harms caused by the gas leak, and a company that divested its interests in India without fulfilling its responsibility to make the Bhopal plant safe. Dow exercises effective control over UCC, and as a consequence, Dow bears responsibility for UCC's current conduct regarding Bhopal and the ongoing environmental and human rights disaster.
The site has never been properly cleaned up. The industrial skeleton of the former Union Carbide factory today still lies abandoned in the center of Bhopal, with more than 350 tons of toxic waste untreated inside. More than 40,000 people are still living next to the factory, and have been exposed to toxic waste for the last 30 years.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.