Eternit and the Great Asbestos Trial: Appeal Proceedings
Further hearings will commence on February 14, 2013 in the case which has become known as the Great Asbestos Trial. Hundreds of pages of legal argument submitted to the Turin Court challenge first degree guilty verdicts handed down one year ago by a three-judge panel to defendants Stephan Schmidheiny (Switzerland) and Baron Louis de Cartier (Belgium).1 Neither one of the former asbestos executives, both of whom were convicted for their part in the causation of an Italian asbestos disaster, has complied with court orders to pay compensation to thousands of victims, associations, municipal authorities and civic bodies.
In an article published on January 26, 2013 in La Stampa de Cartier's lawyers Carlo Enrico Paliero and Cesare Zaccone called the €89 million fine intolerable.2 There is, de Cartier's lawyers say, no proof of any causal link between the incidence of occupational asbestos disease and their client's actions. Schmidheiney's lawyers are trying to overturn the verdict with arguments based on lack of jurisdiction and unconstitutionality; they allege that the charges of wilful negligence and omission of safety measures should have been heard by the Court of Assizes. Should these arguments find favour with the Turin Court, the 2012 verdict could be overturned and the proceedings would have to be reinvestigated, reconsidered and reheard by the other Court.
The lack of progress in this case has been frustrating for victims and campaigners backing their calls for justice. Attempts to request that the Swiss and Belgian authorities force the defendants to comply with the Italian court's ruling fell at the first hurdle; the cost of translating the judicial proceedings into the required languages is estimated at €70,000. Without this documentation, nothing can be done to access Schmidheiny's or de Cartier's assets. AFeVA, the association representing many of the claimants from Casale Monferrato, has urged the Italian Compensation Agency (Inail) to undertake the translation as part of the national asbestos plan which is being developed by a consortium of government groups, civil society bodies and professional experts. It is anticipated that as with the previous court hearings, the Turin Court will be crowded with claimants, family members and supporters; French asbestos victims and campaigning groups have confirmed their intention to attend the appeal proceedings.
January 31, 2013
1 Kazan-Allen L. Great Asbestos Trial: Post Verdict Developments. July 17, 2012.
2 Gaino A. Il barone dell'Eternit non vuole pagare 'Insostenibile risarcire le vittime'. January 26, 2013.