The case has been taking place for decades. Pesticides were used on Central American banana plantations, which made thousands of workers infertile. Dibromochloropropane (DBCP) is an ingredient of the pesticide “Nemagon”. In 1977 it was banned in the U.S., as it turned out, that it resulted in Thousands of workers infertility, which were exposed to this pesticide in the US plantations of Dow Chemical, Shell Oil, and Occidental Chemical (now OxyChem). On banana and Pineapple plantations in countries with lower environmental standards used by U.S. food companies, “Nemagon” however, until the 80s.
Over the last decade, Nicaraguan courts have condemned Dow, Shell and Occidental to pay $ 805 million in damages to hundreds of victims. The company refused, arguing that the courts had no jurisdiction and had denied them a fair trial.
Now 1,245 affected workers have brought their suit to Europe, where the companies own a number of assets. Recently, a French court provisionally froze up to the court hearing in January in Paris shares of Dow France worth 99 million euros.
But first, a French judge has to decide whether court rulings from other countries, in this case Nicaragua, can be enforced in France and in the EU at all. If that is the case, the plaintiffs want to claim a portion of the $ 805 million of the Nicaraguan judgment against Dow. They also seek to freeze and sell Dow, Shell and Occidental assets in other European countries. They refer to the EU rule, which provides that a court judgment of an EU country can be enforced in all 28 member states.
The French lawyer Francois-Henri Briard is part of the international team that represents the workers and their families. It should be in a globalised world, multinational companies find it difficult to hide their assets, he told the New York Times: “the US companies in Nicaragua: they have poisoned people, were sentenced by the courts and disappeared without paying.“In such a World, victims should also be allowed to cross borders in order to get to their right.
Dow and Shell blocked the wave of lawsuits in the 90s, the Nicaraguan workers in the United States deposited. The US was not responsible because the alleged damage occurred in Central America. However, when the Nicaraguan courts ruled, the corporations thought that the courts were not competent and refused to pay. Shell, for example, said about the jurisdiction of the courts that her headquarters were located in the United States. Shell has no employees in Nicaragua.
Complaints of workers in the USA did not yield anything. Courts in Florida and California did not recognize the Nicaraguan rulings because they were pleaded on account of bias towards the companies, falsified documents and unclean tactics of the lawyers. It is therefore now up to French judges to judge whether their Nicaraguan colleagues were competent and whether the judgments were based on falsified documents.
The chemical and banana companies take the view that they no longer have any responsibility in the matter, after having paid for them decades ago. All, except Dole, had in 1997 26,000 plantation workers in Central America, Africa and the Philippines for compensation of over $ 41 million. agreed. Dole agreed on an unknown amount in 2014 with 1,700 workers in Nicaragua. The workers who are now seeking their rights in France were not part of these agreements.