Will President Obama Respect Indian Judiciary?

US President Barack Obama speaks on US - India relations during a townhall event at Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi on January 27, 2015. US President Barack Obama warned January 27 that the world does not "stand a chance against climate change" unless developing countries such as India reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama speaks on US – India relations during a townhall event at Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

By T. Kumar, International Advocacy Director for Amnesty International USA

As President Obama is about to host Indian Prime Minister Modi on June 7th to discuss series of issues, one issue is not going to be on the table. The case in point is the summons served by an Indian court to a US based multinational company for the deaths of thousands as a result of a poisonous gas leak in Bhopal in India over thirty years ago. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

If We Fail Our Environment, We Fail to Protect Our Human Rights


“If we fail our environment, we fail to protect our human rights.” -Ban Ki-moon

Human rights, dignity, livelihood, health and wellbeing are directly correlated with the health of the environment. We have seen time and time again that corporate actions often have devastating effects on the human rights of individuals around the world. From the Bhopal chemical disaster to the oil spills in the Niger Delta, failures to protect our environment impact the lives of millions and have ongoing and devastating consequences for future generations. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

One of the World’s Worst Industrial Disasters Exposed on the Big Screen


Bhopal – A Prayer for Rain releases in the US on November 7th.

My name is Ravi Kumar, director and co-writer of the film Bhopal-A Prayer For Rain. I want you to take a second and imagine what your life would be like today if your parents not only died in an industrial disaster that could have been avoided, but those responsible had evaded punishment for 30 years.

What is an impossible thought for me, is a horrifying reality for the families of more than 20,000 women, men, and children who have died following the 1984 toxic gas leak at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

London Olympics Further Tainted by Dow Chemical

Activists and survivors of the 1984 Bhopal disaster

Activists and survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster demonstrate. (STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Since we last told you about Dow Chemical’s controversial Olympic sponsorship, things seem to have only gotten worse for Dow Chemical – from a public relations perspective anyway. Along with Dow Chemical’s horribly insensitive comments, the increased media attention has only revealed additional ethically troubling business practices.

The International Olympic Committee and games’ organizers continue (for now) solidly and uncritically back Dow as a sponsor, despite harsh criticism from Amnesty and others. But if Dow Chemical was hoping that it might benefit from the benevolent glow of the Olympic spirit of international goodwill, the past few weeks have not been kind.


London Olympics Faces Public Meltdown For Dow Chemical Sponsorship

india bhopal

Indians protest the Bhopal disaster

A commissioner for a body monitoring the sustainability and ethics of the London 2012 Olympics has resigned over its links with Dow Chemical, the company mixed up in one of the worst corporate related human rights disasters of the 20th century.

Meredith Alexander is quitting the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012. It describes itself as an independent body which “monitors and assures the sustainability of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Ms. Alexander, who is Head of Policy for the charity ActionAid, told BBC’s Newsnight why she was resigning:

“I feel I was part of a lobby which legitimized Dow’s claims that it had no responsibility for Bhopal…This is an iconic case. It’s one of the worst abuses of human rights in my generation and I just could not stand idly by.”


Olympics Denigrate Suffering of Bhopal Survivors

The International Olympic Committee loves to think of their event as a not just a sporting event, but as a tool for furthering peace and social justice around the world. Furthermore, The Olympic Committee’s guidelines on sourcing are meant to place a high priority on environmental, social and ethical issues when contracting for the Games.

india bhopalThat sounds awesome!

But how then can London’s 2012 Olympic Games justify giving chemical giant Dow Chemical a high profile contract in light of Dow’s failure to address one of the worst corporate related human rights disasters of the 20th century? You can tell the Olympics’ leadership about the legacy of Bhopal that Dow Chemical refuses to address and ask them why they ignored this tragedy when giving this juicy contract to Dow Chemical.


Call-In Day of Action for Bhopal

International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal Demands Justice for the 1984 industrial disaster

As I mentioned earlier in the week, US President Barack Obama is in India.  At this very moment, he’s in New Delhi after a day in India’s financial center of Mumbai.  Now is the time to call the White House and tell them that you want justice for the victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas leak from a plant operated by a US based company now owned by Dow Chemical.

The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB), a partner of AI’s efforts to seek redress for the victims of this awful gas leak, aims to get Bhopal on the agenda for Obama’s visit, so Bhopalis will be staging a day-long sit in, and ICJB is organizing an international solidarity call in action to support them.

AIUSA has been an integral part of the coalition for justice for the people of Bhopal.  In fact, just before Obama left for India, Amnesty International issued a letter to the White House saying in part that

“It is essential that your administration and the Government of India cooperate to ensure that  those accused of causing the Bhopal disaster, including UCC, are made to face trial, and that Bhopal survivors are able to obtain redress.”

Please join Amnesty International USA’s Corporate Action Network and the South Asia Regional Action Network in helping to promote the ICJB action today and in the future. We are asking AIUSA supporters to call the White House comment line and express their concern for Bhopal.

After calling the White House comment line at 202-456-1111 (between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm EST) on November 8, 2010, here are some ideas on how you can further support this effort:

  1. Post a link to this blog post, including a blurb on the action (suggested blurb: “We are asking AUSA supporters to call the White House comment line at 202-456-1111 (between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm EST) and express their concern for Bhopal, on your website.
  2. Set this as your Twitter/Facebook status: Today I’m calling Obama’s office to ask him to support justice in Bhopal while in India. Join the action! http://www.studentsforbhopal.org/raiseyourvoice [or use this short URL: http://tiny.cc/mgozc]
  3. Post this Facebook message:

Dear friends: Today I am asking concerned citizens worldwide act in solidarity with the survivors of the 1984 Bhopal, India Gas Disaster who staged a protests in New Delhi today. While Obama is in India, we would like him to properly address the unresolved human rights crisis and support real justice for the people of Bhopal. Please call the White House comment line to make this request: (202) 456-1111.  If we all take action together, maybe he’ll realize how many people feel that his Administration’s position on Bhopal needs to change. More information at http://www.studentsforbhopal.org/raiseyourvoice.  Thank you for your continued support!

Thank you for supporting Bhopal’s human right to health and a clean environment.  If you want more resources on AIUSA’s work on Bhopal, just ask down in the comments.

Obama: India Ain't Just About Gandhi and Outsourcing

As an Indian-American, anytime the US President visits India, I get excited about the possibilities of a stronger relationship between the two gigantic countries.  And, tomorrow, US President Barack Obama is off to India, stopping in Mumbai and Delhi, among other places.  It also happens to coincide with Diwali, the closest equivalent to Christmas in the Hindu calendar.

The Indian media as usual is going completely bonkers about the trip highlighting every aspect of the trip from the security issues related to a US presidential visit to whether a visit to the Sikh holy site in Amritar might be bad for Obama politically back home.

There is also WAY too much coverage of Obama’s views of Mahatma Gandhi and what it means for him to be visiting India.  Of course, there’s the obligatory stuff about India’s booming outsourcing industry and their high tech sector.

What I haven’t seen much of was whether there will be a discussion of human rights.  It’s probably because there won’t be much of a discussion.  But, there is a LOT to talk about:

  1. Bhopal: 24 years almost to the day was when the world heard the horror of the victims of the Union Carbide (now Dow Chemical) gas release.  There is still little accountability for allowing these deaths to occur and both President Obama and Prime Minister Singh must take steps in each of their countries to prosecute the perpetrators of this human rights catastrophe.
  2. Kashmir: Obama is walking a tightrope on getting involved in the human rights violations in Kashmir, but he must insist that the human rights violations stop and that peace and justice return to the valley as a way to begin discussions on the status of the area.  I recently did a chat on Twitter about Kashmir and we have an action on Kashmir as well.  Things are incredibly grim in the Kashmir Valley and if it’s ignored, the US will have certainly lost credibility on human rights.
  3. Myanmar (aka Burma): Both the US and India must publicly call for the release of all prisoner’s of conscience and an end to human rights violations.
  4. Sri Lanka: Both the US and India must call upon the Sri Lankan government to address human rights violations that had occurred during the civil war.
  5. Terrorism: Both India and the US must take steps to ensure that all prosecutions of terrorism suspects be conducted fairly.  Victims of terrorism are victims of human rights violations and the perpetrators of these violations need to be prosecuted.
  6. Both countries need to abolish the death penalty.

If India and the United States work to incorporate human rights into their relationship, then this could be the start of a great relationship!

25 years later, Dow and India still failing the people of Bhopal

By Anna Phelan, Amnesty International USA’s Business and Economic Relations Group

Last week President Obama and Prime Minister Singh met to discuss U.S.-India relations; it was the first state visit of President Obama’s administration. According to news reports, the two heads of state discussed working together as natural allies on intelligence issues as well as energy security, clean energy, agriculture and climate change issues. Did President Obama use this opportunity to also address human rights concerns in India? And in particular, did they discuss Bhopal?

Twenty-five years ago, a toxic gas leak at Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, India caused more than 7,000 immediate deaths. Since then, 25,000 people have died and 100,000 suffer from ongoing health problems. Let me be more specific. The survivors and their children, a second generation of survivors, live with debilitating illnesses including cancer and birth defects. The plant site has not been cleaned up. Toxic wastes continue to pollute the environment and ground water. No one has been held accountable, despite years of legal proceedings in both the Indian and U.S. court systems. In short, survivors have been denied adequate compensation, medical care, rehabilitation of disaster site, and justice.

In India last week, the biggest daily newspapers — The Deccan Herald, The Telegraph, and The Times of India — all reported on the Indian government’s flawed decision to mark the 25th anniversary by opening the Bhopal disaster site to the public.

Government officials claimed they wanted to: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST