Brussels Demonstration by Asbestos Victims
A peaceful demonstration by hundreds of asbestos victims and family members took place in Woluwe Park, Brussels on Sunday May 14, 2006. The choice of venue was symbolic as the park is located within a stone's throw of the headquarters of Etex, formerly known as Eternit, an asbestos multinational responsible for asbestos deaths in Belgium and dozens of countries around the world. A wreath was laid in memory of all those who have died from exposure to Eternit asbestos.
Under cloudy skies, members of Belgian and French Asbestos Victims' Associations from Dunkirk and Bourgogne marched side-by-side in the third annual demonstration organized by ABEVA, the Belgian Association of Asbestos Victims. Erik Jonckheere, ABEVA's Co-chairman, condemned the government which still refuses to recognize the plight of the asbestos injured. Jonckheere pointed out that while some victims of occupational asbestos exposure receive a modicum of compensation, others do not. Victims whose exposure was environmental or which occurred when they were self-employed receive no recognition or compensation. The asbestos question is still not dealt with properly; he suggested:
It is perhaps due to the fact that Eternit gives a handout of 42,500 euros to its workers or past workers and to their spouses if they develop mesothelioma - in exchange for their silence. It is also due, no doubt, to the fact that employers benefit from what amounts to total immunity in the civil courts, since the law does not recognize (like in France) the concept of 'inexcusable' fault.
At the demonstration, Belgian Deputy Ms. Gerkens announced her proposal for a Belgian compensation fund for all asbestos victims.
May 20, 2006