World News

Iraqi father in legal first against BP over son’s death

A father has started legal action against UK oil giant BP over the death of his 21-year-old son. Hussein Julood alleges the burning off of gas at a BP-run oil field in Iraq – a practise known as flaring – caused his son Ali’s leukaemia.

A BBC investigation in 2022 found Ali’s village, which lies within the field, had high levels of cancer-causing pollutants known to come from flaring. BP said “we understand the concerns” and are supporting change.

The case is believed to be the first time an individual has started legal action against a major oil firm over its flaring practices.The claim letter – which has been seen by BBC News – alleges that Ali’s leukaemia and subsequent death was caused by “toxic emissions from the Rumaila oilfield”, and that BP is partly responsible as the lead contractor.Mr Julood is seeking compensation for the cost of his son’s medical treatment – including overseas chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants – loss of earnings, funeral costs, as well as the “moral loss” of his son.

“I am just hoping for those who hear my voice, from BP, to consider my situation. I am not representing myself alone, I am also representing those poor people living here and suffering from pollution,” Hussein Julood told BBC News.

Wessen Jazrawi, partner at Hausfeld & Co, which is representing Mr Julood, said: “This is an important example of environmental litigation seeking compensation for harmful emissions from a carbon major. Such companies have generally been able to carry out harmful environmental practices with impunity, particularly where these occur in the Global South.Gas flaring is the burning of gas released in oil extraction; it is dangerous for human health as the gas can contain a mixture of harmful cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene.

Rumaila oil field has the highest documented levels of flaring in the world, according to BBC analysis of World Bank figures.

Hussein Julood said one of the most crucial goals of his claim was that regular flaring should be stopped in Rumaila so that more families did not suffer.Ali was just 15 when he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia and underwent two years of treatment including multiple courses of chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and radiotherapy.

His father said he was a keen footballer and enjoyed school, but after so many stays in hospital he was unable to return to classes. In 2021, he was confirmed to be in remission and was excited about the future – he opened a phone shop locally.

A year later, he was found to be in relapse. His father tried desperately to raise funds to send him to India for experimental treatment. However, Ali passed away on 21 April last year before he could make the trip.

Speaking to the BBC, Ali’s father said: “It was a very sad year for the family. For me, his mother, and his brothers too. Ali was an unforgettable person, he was my backbone, I depended on him in my work, my life, and in everything in the house. All the days we live are sad.”

In 2021, Ali documented his life living within the boundaries of Rumaila oil field as part of a BBC investigation into flaring.

Source: BBC

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