Posted on April 10, 2012
A historic guilty verdict from the Eternit trial in February definitively reaffirms a century of scientific evidence that asbestos exposure is deadly. The precedent has been set: corporations involved in the production of asbestos will be held accountable for human, social, and environmental rights violations. The asbestos industry, like the tobacco industry, profits from a business of death, and for the first time ever, those who manufacture or produce asbestos were criminally charged. Tried in absentia, billionaires Stephan Schmidheiny and Baron Jean-Louis de Cartier de Marchienne were found guilty of asbestos related crimes; each was sentenced to 16 years in prison and has been ordered to pay millions of euros in damages. It is difficult to prove personal responsibility in such cases, but after a ten year process, an Italian court in Turin courageously ruled to bring justice for all harmed by Eternit. Bruno Pesce, coordinator of AFeVA, stated, “This is a big change. Even a very powerful person, or a very important person, can cause thousands of deaths. Should we ignore it?” Pesce and fellow members of AFeVA were recently presented with the Tribute of Unity Award at the Eighth Annual Asbestos Awareness Conference.
After the ruling, the court read the names of every person represented in the trial – 6,000 workers from four Italian plants, including the deceased and their family members. The guilty verdict is expected to have a dramatic impact on countries still mining asbestos, particularly Russia, the top producer of asbestos in the world. Dr. Barry Castleman, an environmental scientist from the United States who testified as an expert witness in the case, noted, “The importance of the February 13,2012 sentence is that it establishes a personal criminal responsibility of the production firm’s executives, who will now learn the lesson.” Mr. Schmidheiny issued a statement claiming the verdict was “incomprehensible,” and announced his plans to appeal the decision. ADAO is following the momentous case closely, and we’ll be sharing trial evidence as it is made public.
As part of ADAO’s ongoing involvement with the Eternit trial, a screening of the film Dust: The Great Asbestos Trial was held Wednesday April 4th as part of Day 4 of Global Asbestos Awareness Week, at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. The success of the film is truly exciting for ADAO, and we are proud to help promote the groundbreaking work of directors Niccolo Bruna and Andrea Prandstraller.
Recognizing the power of video and our ability to share, here is an ADAO interview with Emmanuelle Schouten, Belgian Attorney, who discusses the Eternit asbestos trial and verdict
Special thanks to Dr. Renov, Alex Ago, and the University of Southern California for allowing ADAO this magnificent opportunity to screen Dust for the first time in the United States!
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