European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Justice for the victims

For thirty-odd years, asbestos workers’ groups have struggled to get official recognition for all asbestos victims and the fullest compensation for the harm they have suffered.

Their fight is starting to pay off, especially in countries where victims have sought redress through the courts, as in France where the civil courts have found against asbestos industrialists in many cases in recent years. The lid that kept the risks of asbestos under wraps has now been lifted once for all.

Criminal investigations have even been launched in some cases in France and Italy. Rightly so, because industry has long known what diseases asbestos causes and has wilfully continued to expose countless people both inside and outside workplaces to this poison. Stiff penalties have been imposed - including jail time - against former production site managers.

On 13 February 2012, after a trial lasting almost three years, a court in Turin sentenced Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny and Belgium’s Baron Louis Cartier de Marchienne to sixteen years in jail. These former executives of the Eternit group were found guilty of having triggered ‘a permanent health and environmental catastrophe’ which led to the deaths of some 3,000 people in Italy, both former workers and residents of four areas where Eternit-Italy had its factories.