UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre
UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre

Acclaimed ‘Arica’ documentary prompts intervention from United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)

UN letters include harsh criticism of Swedish government and Boliden mining company

Over 30 years after Swedish mining company Boliden shipped almost 20,000 tonnes of toxic mining waste to the Chilean city of Arica, a group of United Nations Special Rapporteurs have made allegations of serious ongoing human rights abuses, exposed in the ARICA documentary, which continues it’s festival run with screenings in Spain, Czech Republic, Italy and Belgium in the coming weeks. 

Exposure to the waste led to numerous cases of cancer, birth defects and serious diseases, with the Chilean government estimating that around 12,000 people were exposed to the toxins. The UN HRC intervention, already making headlines in Chile and Sweden, makes it clear that in the eyes of the UN Human Rights Council, many questions remain unanswered.

The HRC also advise the Swedish Government that “Urgent measures should be taken to repatriate the hazardous wastes to Sweden and/or ensure thedisposal of the hazardous wastes in an environmentally sound manner.”

Criticism is also reserved for Boliden Mining, who the UN HRC accuse of “intimidating and threatening behaviour” towards human rights defenders – namely the legal team representing the victims in Arica. They allege that such an approach, employed by Boliden following the decision by the Swedish Appeal court not to hear the ARICA case on the grounds that Boliden’s actions took place too long ago to be tried under Swedish law, were “a deliberate attempt to produce a wider chilling effect of silencing and intimidating other lawyers and human rightsdefenders”.

The UN intervention has been welcomed by victims and campaigners in Arica, Sweden and beyond.

“For over thirty years we have seen our families and our neighbours suffer the consequences of this Swedish waste. We have buried our children and been forced from our homes. We will not stop until our voices are heard and the damage is repaired. Even when we win in court, we find nothing but broken promises. For the first time, the intervention of the United Nations gives us hope that our human rights will be upheld.”The people of ARICA demand that immediate action is taken to meet our health needs and that the toxic waste is returned to where it belongs, in Sweden.” Rodrigo Pino Vargas, community campaigner”.

The acclaimed documentary feature film ‘ARICA’ has come to the attention of Marcos Orellana, the UN Special Rapporteur on Toxic Waste and Human Rights.

“With the screenings of the Swedish documentary “Arica”, the voices of the victims who demand environmental justice are adequatly enforced.”

The acclaimed documentary feature film ‘ARICA’, was filmed over 15 years by film-makers Lars Edman and William Johansson and produced by Andreas Rocksén.

Andreas Rocksén of Laika Film, “When Lars and William began filming fifteen years ago  their intention was to ensure that the voices of the people in Arica, affected by the waste that came from under the soil where they grew up, would be heard. What has happened since has surpassed any expectations, their story is being heard around the world, and yet those same people in Arica are still fighting for justice. We will continue to amplify their voices as best we can and applaud all the different initiatives aimed  to see their human rights upheld.”

Political pressure in Sweden is mounting as the country prepares to host the Stockholm+50 event, marking 50 years since the first ever UN Conference on the human environment.

Read the UN-rapporteurs’ letter to Sweden here:

https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=26160

Read the UN-rapporteurs’ letter to Mikael Staffas, Managing Director of Boliden here: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=26162

Read the UN-rapporteurs’ letter to Chile (in Spanish) here: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=26161

Links

United Nations Human Rights Communications Office for the High Commission

Available for interview

  • Dr Marcos Orellana: United Nations Special Rapporteur on Toxics and Human Rights
  • Lars Edman – Co-Director, ARICA
  • William Johansson – Co-Director, ARICA
  • Jonas Ebesson – Lawyer who represented ARICA Victims. Also Professor of Law at Stockholm University and Chair of UN Aarhus Convention
  • Klas Nilsson – Director of Communications Boliden

For any interview requests please contact:
Andreas Rocksén @ Laika Film + 46 70 301 12 05

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