“Europe poisons Africa”- was painted on the Probo Koala by Greenpeace activists in September 2006.
There was no toxic disaster, but it was a stench incident that was caused by the Probo Koala in the Ivory Coast in August 2006. Less than 2 weeks after Jaffe Vink has explained this in his book, new consensus arose. The smelly fumes from the waste did not reach life threatening concentrations, there were no deaths, no injuries. Even environmental organisation Greenpeace, leading in the battle against Trafigura (owner of the waste), admits that there is no evidence for great misery in Abidjan.
How could the media coverage be so wrong? The master thesis “Journalism Poison and Influenza in the Ivory Coast” by Bibi Bleekemolen of the University of Amsterdam explicit appoints Greenpeace as the source of aggressive intonation. Maybe not completely correct: terms as ‘toxic dump” and toxic deaths” already circulated before the organisation uttered the sound, but Greenpeace eagerly kept on using them. It is clear that Greenpeace established a firm grip on the information around the Probo Koala.
Only three weeks after the first reports about the “toxic disaster” were sent to Europe, photos of Greenpeace activists appeared who prevent the Probo Koala from leaving the port of Estonia with their action ship Arctic Sunrise. To make it clear the “Greenpeace toxic patrol” painted “Europe poisons Africa” on the ship. That was a strange conversion, because ten days earlier the scientific bureau of Greenpeace in Exeter indicated that it was not likely that the fumes would reach deadly concentrations.
In Estonia, the tone changed permanently, also thanks to the European environmental commissioner Stavros Dimas who visited the Arctic Sunrise. From the bridge he stated that the waste was “heavily poisonous” and the behaviour of Trafigura “criminal”, after which he thanked Greenpeace for their efforts. A couple of days earlier Greenpeace filled a complaint at the DPP. The Volkskrant announced that “the poison” from the Probo Koala originate from an even severe manner than expected: refining at sea. That were the results of a draft desk study that investigated the theoretical effects of the waste who third parties mistakenly had passed on as a real reconstruction. In the meantime “local authorities” announced toxic death on toxic death
At the end of September 2006, Greenpeace was in great form. It was almost obvious that an Ivorian investigation commission employed a Greenpeace lawyer Jasper Teulings as advisor. Subsequently when the Ivorians want to locate a law firm to support 30,000 victims of the stench incident, Teulings recommends the London firm Leigh Day & Co. They put lawyer Martyn Day on the case. "It could also have been another lawyer”, says campaign leader Marietta Harjono of Greenpeace. "It was a coincidence." Perhaps not: Martyn Day had been chairman of Greenpeace UK for the last ten years. He is still with Greenpeace. Who will gossip about that? What the outsider sees is that the group of journalists that formed itself around Greenpeace never said a word about it. Just as discrete the Greenpeace background of DPP Luuk Boogert, who in Holland lead the criminal procedure against Trafigura, was kept silent. During his training as a DPP from 1993-1995 he worked for Greenpeace as a lawyer. Here also a wrong insignation would not be appropriate, only the conclusion that " the group" never said anything about it.
Do an advisor, a lawyer and PP form a network together? A member of parliament can be added there. There was nobody as aggressive as the MP Diederik Samson, former campaigner of Greenpeace. It is him who gets Ibeanu, the Special UN Rapporteur on the "toxic dump" to parliament in 2008. It is not documented how many politicians met this Nigerian. But he certainly he met Marietta Harjono. And Martyn Day.
The period between 2006 and the first Probo Koala court case in 2010, was characterised by sudden explosions of shocking news which pushed Trafigura into the defence. A campaign. Somethimes the news exploded in the UK, somethimes in the Netherlands. The source seemed invisible, until you look more closely. The news always came from the Amsterdam criminal file or the London case file. The files were not inaccessable. Martyn Day requested parts of the Amsterdam criminal file for his civil case in London. There, anyone interested could get the files at the UK court, because that is possible in the UK. If you know that they are there. It is through this route that Greenpeace delivered the infamous revealing internal emails to the group of journalists. The NFI chemical analysis of the waste probably ended up at the BBC like this. Those familiar with the procedure [requesting legal documents] probably use it more frequently. You can also think about other shorter route. The shortest route becomes visible in the official "Complaint" filed by Greenpeace in The Hague in 2009. The complaint appears to be based for a part on the criminal file and the civil case file. Not much investigative journalism is required. The group of journalists got this information neatly presented to them. And that the Dutch court in the end commented on the campaign with its unproven conclusions, was also not mentioned by the group of journalist. Just as the cost claim by Martyn Day. Which amounted to GBP 105 million, more than three times the compensation paid to the Ivorian "victims".
- Today is the start of the appeal against Trafigura, owner of the waste that the tanker Probo Koala had dumped in Abidjan in August 2006
- The horrible stench of the mixture of caustic soda and gasoline lead to panic and health complaints
- the waste originated from a extraordinary refinery process at sea.
- the court case explicitly is not about the dumping but about an earlier attempt of Trafigura to discharge the waste in Amsterdam
- It was offered as ordinary "slops" "washing water" of an oil tanker to waste disposal company APS.
- when APS noticed that the "slops" were unusually polluted and then wanted a higher price for processing it, the Probo Koala, under protest of the Environmental Department, but with the consent of the City of Amsterdam, took the waste onboard again and brought it to Africa.
-APS and Amsterdam are also on trial again. Trafigura should have indicated that the waste was hazardous. The parties together have been kept liable for the export to Africa. APS appeals to the fact that they had consent from the City and the City appeals to immunity.