Press Release: AFeVA Press Release on Italian Court Ruling

Posted on November 29, 2016


AFEVA LogoThe Association of the Relatives of Asbestos Victims (AFEVA) of Casale Monferrato and Cavagnolo and the CGIL, CISL and UIL Trade unions wish to release the following statement with reference to the today’s ruling by the Turin preliminary hearing magistrate (GUP) on the so called Eternit-bis trial: 

We waited two years for this result and words cannot describe all the feeling the great effort with nothing to show for has left us with. 

Hearings, debates, arguments and an (avoidable) one year break waiting for the decision of the Constitutional Court, more arguments, six hours in Chambers.. and the magistrates who seemed  to never want to bring it to an end, … has segmented the Eternit- bis trial all over Italy. 

These are the reasons why were are deeply dissatisfied by the decision. 

First of all because the charges have been reduced to manslaughter while the defendant’s behaviour was disconcertingly wilful. 

All the investigations, the witnesses at the first trial had proved it: clearly (but unfortunately not so to this Investigating magistrate).  Thanks to his research centres,  Stephan Schmidheiny was aware of the deaths asbestos would cause but continued as usual.  In the name of profit, the Eternit owner treated the death of hundreds,  thousands of people as a ‘necessary cost’.  Whatever the legal and juridical tradition, this is called wilful murder. 

The second but no less important reason is the implication of the statute of limitations: hundreds of cases awaiting justice, some even not even included in the first trial, have been washed away. For the umpteenth time, we are having to deal with the absurd (to say the least) consequences of the law on the statute of limitations which protects a criminal even after formal charges have been pressed against him, with no regard for the victims. 

The hope is that by sharing the decision making among several courts, it will be faster and simpler to reach the truth, making it impossible for the defendant, Schmidheiny to paradoxically gain an advantage from the ‘too many’ deaths he caused.  The recent Ivrea [Olivetti] case highlighted how the Italian courts are able to make better and reasonably swifter decisions for the victims with smaller numbers. In the coming months the many Eternit –bis trials will be a new test case for the Italian justice system.    

In conclusion, if Afeva and the Unions had doubled their efforts after the 2014 Court of Cassation verdict, now given the number of Prosecutions we will have to at least increase them four-fold. We will, we  undertake to, although we are aware that not even these trials  will offer justice to the new mesothelioma cases which unfortunately ravage Casale and its neighbouring areas.  Our aim, and therefore our commitment, is not to leave anyone behind. 

It’s going to be a long road and unfortunately as from today it branches off in many directions.  Our hope (and our commitment) is that that all these separate cases may be united by a satisfactory verdict in the future.

For the Afeva Directive Giuliana Busto,  President of Afeva, Turin, November the 29th 2016

 (translation by V Franzinetti)

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