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Italian Appeals Court Upholds Guilty Verdict in Historic Eternit Asbestos Case

[All links lead to Italian-language webpages unless otherwise noted.]

An appeals court in Turin, Italy has affirmed a previous court's landmark ruling [en] finding Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny [en], former owner of cement manufacturer Swiss Eternit Group, responsible for nearly 3,000 asbestos-related deaths.

The court, presided over by Alberto Oggè, even upped the damages on June 3, 2013 that Schmidheiny must pay to the victims and local authorities.

There should have been two defendants, but the very day that the first conviction was handed down, the other defendant, the Belgian Baron Louis De Cartier De Marchienne [en], died aged 92 – a matter of days before the end of the appeal process. For this reason, the court declared his case settled.

Many sources have called [en] this the biggest trial for environmental damage in the history of Europe with more than 2,890 injured parties – both workers and citizens – of whom more than 2,000 have died or are suffering from serious illnesses.

Biagio Chiariello wrote on the community blog fanpage.it:

La pronuncia della sentenza d’appello era attesa con trepidazione da almeno 500 persone, arrivate a bordo di sette autobus. Le parti lese sono circa seimila tra familiari dei lavoratori morti per tumore o semplici cittadini residenti nei luoghi in cui c’erano le fabbriche che producevano le fibre di amianto a Casale Monferrato, in provincia di Alessandria, a Cavagnolo (Torino), Bagnoli (Napoli), Rubiera (Reggio Emilia). La sentenza estende la responsabilità dell'imputato anche per le vittime di queste due ultime fabbriche, per cui invece in primo grado era stata dichiarata l'intervenuta prescrizione. Schmydheiny è stato assolto per il periodo che va dal giugno del '66 al '76 per non aver commesso il fatto.

The appeal verdict was eagerly awaited by at least 500 people, who arrived on seven buses. There are about 6,000 offended parties from family members of workers who died due to tumours to citizens of the areas where the factories produced the asbestos fibres in Casale Monferrato, in the province of Alessandria, in Cavagnolo (Turin), Bagnoli (Naples) and Rubiera (Reggio Emilia). The sentence extends the accused's responsibility to the victims of the last two factories, for which, instead of first time around, a limitation period was declared. Schmidheiny was acquitted for the period from June '66 to '76 for not having committed the crime.

On the same blog fanpage.it, in another post, Antonio Palma provided details of the amount the Swiss billionaire will have to pay to the victims:

La somma più rilevante stabilita dal collegio giudicante presieduto da Alessandro Oggé è per il Comune di Casale Monferrato in provincia di Alessandria, uno dei più colpiti dal terribile disastro ambientale della multinazionale dell'amianto e dove vivevano circa la metà delle vittime. Come ha stabilito la sentenza eternit, all'amministrazione cittadina andranno 30,9 milioni di euro, una cifra lievitata rispetto ai 25 milioni stabiliti nella sentenza di primo grado e corrispondenti alle richieste dei legali del Comune. Ad ogni familiare delle vittime invece è stato riconosciuto un risarcimento di 30mila euro.

The most significant sum established by the panel of judges presided by Alessando Oggé is destined for the Council of Casale Monferrato in the province of Alessandria, one of the worst hit by the terrible environmental disaster caused by the asbestos multinational and where almost half of the victims live. As agreed by the Eternit ruling, the local authorities will receive 30.9 million euros (41.2 million US dollars), which has risen from the 25 million (33.3 million US dollars) set out by the judgement of first instance, in line with the requests of the town's lawyers. Every family member of the victims will instead receive damages for 30,000 euros (about 40,018 US dollars).

The author continued:

Un risarcimento sostanzioso andrà anche alla regione Piemonte a cui sono stati attribuiti 20 milioni di euro. La sentenza eternit ha poi stabilito 100mila euro per ogni sindacato ammesso come parte civile e 70mila euro ciascuno invece alle due associazioni ambientaliste, Wwf e Legambiente. Unica eccezione in fatto di risarcimenti nella sentenza eternit è quello dell'Inail. All'istituto per gli infortuni sul lavoro la Corte non ha riconosciuto il diritto al risarcimento anche se l'ente aveva già promosso nei confronti della multinazionale azioni di recupero molto dispendiose.

The Piedmont region will also receive substantial compensation for a total of 20 million euros (26.7 US dollars). The Eternit ruling also established 100,000 euros (133,400 US dollars) for each union admitted as a civil party and 70,000 euros (93,400 US dollars) each to the two environmental organisations, WWF and Legambiente. The only exception in terms of compensation in the Eternit ruling is that of Inail (Italian National Institution for Insurance against Accidents at Work). The Court did not recognise any right to compensation for Inail even if the institution had already begun a very expensive recovery operation with regards to the multinational.

Asbestos kills and causes serious illnesses in every corner of the world. However, in many other parts of the world, the victims have not yet had the satisfaction of seeing the perpetrators brought to justice. On scienze-naturali.it, wrote:

 E se l’Italia ha una legge scritta in cui si bandisce l’uso dell’amianto e che in Europa l’Eternit sia stato messo al bando, sono solo 44 le Nazioni che l’hanno bandito, mentre ci sono Paesi dove viene ancora utilizzato, come Russia, Canada, Cina, India, Brasile, Thailandia. Gli Stati Uniti, per aggirare il problema, hanno pensato bene di trasferire le industrie di amianto in Messico dove gli operai non vengono informati sul pericolo o vengono tranquillizzati; il Canada produce e vende all’estero l’amianto guardandosi bene dalle pratiche di utilizzo all’interno dei propri confini nazionali.

 

And although Italy has a law that bans the use of asbestos and Europe has banished Eternit, only 44 nations have banned it. There are countries where it is still used, such as Russia, Canada, China, India, Brasil and Thailand. To avoid the problem, the USA has transferred the asbestos industry in Mexico where the workers are either not informed of the dangers or reassured; Canada produces and sells asbestos abroad while being careful of its use within their own borders.

Unfortunately, there is still some asbestos littered around the country: in schools, in homes or scattered in the environment. Dario Scacciavento noted on aamterranuova.it

Anche se l'estrazione e la commercializzazione di eternit e amianto è stata bandita nel 1992, gli esperti epidemiologici prevedono il picco dei malati di tumori intorno al 2020.

Even if the extraction and marketing of Eternit and asbestos was banned in 1992, experts in epidemics foresee a peak in cancer patients around 2020.

Even in Africa asbestos is costing lives. The two most contaminated countries are South Africa and Zimbabwe. This video available on YouTube dramatically describes the ordeal of some victims waiting to die in the town of Prieska:

The ruling in Turin has given a colossal boost to the associations of victims, of family members and in general civil society all over the world to continue fighting against industrial pollution, particularly that caused by asbestos.

On the site articolo21.org, Santo Della Volpe wrote:

Infatti a Casale Monferrato si sono già riunite le associazioni contro l’amianto di Francia, Belgio, Svizzera, Brasile ed altri paesi sudamericani, per concordare l’uso di questa sentenza nei loro paesi, dove l’Eternit e le micidiali fibre di amianto, non solo si usano, ma si continuano a produrre.

In fact associations against asbestos from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Brazil and other South American countries have gathered in Casale Monferrato to agree on the application of this sentence in their home countries, where Eternit and deadly asbestos fibres are not only in use but continue to be produced.

Before leaving Turin, victims’ associations from France (ANDEVA), Belgium (ABEVA), the United Kingdom (AVSGF and others), the USA (ADAO), Brasil (ABREA), Spain (FEDAVICA), Australia (ADSA), Canada (CANSAV), Korea, India (OHSA and others), South Africa, Peru (APEVA) and Germany as well as Italy's AFEVA, issued a press release requesting that the United Nations include asbestos in their list of chemical products from the Rotterdam Convention [en] that regulates the import and export of certain dangerous chemical products and pesticides.

In Spain, asbestosinthedock.ning.com announced [es]:

Durante los próximos días 10 y 11 de Junio, a partir de las 9,30 horas, tendrá lugar, ante el Juzgado de lo Social Número 5 de Sevilla(Edificio NOGA, en Avda. de la Buhaira), la celebración del primer juicio colectivo de afectados por el amianto, contra la Empresa URALITA, que casi durante 60 años desarrolló su actividad industrial de fabricación de materiales de fibrocemento en esta Ciudad, concretamente en el conocido Barrio de Bellavista.

On 10 and 11 June from 9:30 am at the Labour Court #5 of Seville (NOGA Building, Avenida de la Buhaira) the first collective proceeding of asbestos victims against the company URALITA will be held, a company that for over 60 years has produced fibre cement materials in this city, in particular in the district of Bellavista.

The thirst for profit must not override the worker's right to health. As the prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello declared, the ruling represents “a tribute to life”.

  • Pingback: Italian Appeals Court Upholds Guilty Verdict in Historic Eternit Asbestos Case | OccuWorld

  • RobertCHastings

    Why is Europe dealing with this issue so late in the game? Asbestos and associated illnesses and deaths were part of the American news hype back in the 1960s and 70s, when billions of dollars were set aside for the benefit of those suffering from asbestosis and asbestos related cancers. Today, numerous attorneys around the US are advertising for customers. Asbestos has been banned, and homes that still have asbestos must be dealt with very gingerly when remodeling or destroying.

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