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UK divers' relatives sue Norway
Norwegian oil rig
Norway's pioneer divers say profits were put before safety
The relatives of seven British deep sea divers who perished while working for the Norwegian oil industry are seeking compensation for their deaths.

Seven UK families have said that they are to join a lawsuit which is being brought against the Norwegian government.

They accuse the authorities in Oslo of using their relatives as guinea pigs.

Norway says it accepts moral, but not legal, responsibility and has offered compensation to disabled divers.

Poor health

The case has been brought by former diver Rolf Guttorm Engebretsen, who worked in the North Sea from 1971-1992.

He attributes his long-term poor health - including memory loss, back pain and lung injury - to unsafe working practices which he claims were sanctioned at the highest levels in the Norwegian government.

They include diving at extreme depths over long periods and using unproven and untested breathing gases.

We can prove they knew they were hurting us and that they covered it up
Rolf Guttorm Engebretsen
Norwegian 'pioneer diver'

An Oslo court began hearing his case and that of 23 colleagues on 28 January.

Together the 24 are known as the 'pioneer divers' for their work during the early exploration of the Norwegian continental shelf which turned the country into the world's third largest oil exporter.

"We have 15,000 documents in front of the court. We can prove they knew they were hurting us and that they covered it up," Mr Engebretsen told the BBC.

He says the case deals a blow to Norway's traditional image as a model democracy.

No regulation

"We are a small country and we are the first to point the finger when it comes to human rights," he says.

"Norway has earned millions from oil and yet it violated the human rights of every diver that worked in the oil field."

Jo Revel agrees.

He is a British diver who worked in Norway for 16 years.

The state admits a responsibility on the basis of moral and political aspects, but does not acknowledge any legal liability
Norwegian labour ministry statement

He told the BBC: "The problem is that the diving business was never regulated properly. Like all oilfields, it's money that steers everything.

"At the time, Britain was anxious to get the oil out as quick as possible and so was Norway."

"There's overwhelming evidence that we were used as guinea pigs."

The Norwegian government is refusing to comment on the legal action by relatives of British divers who died on the job.

But it has already offered compensation to divers who have been totally or partially disabled.

A statement by the Norwegian Labour ministry on 31 January says: "The Norwegian state has not denied that divers have been injured as a consequence of diving in relation to the petroleum activity in the North Sea during the pioneer period."

It goes on: "The state admits a responsibility on the basis of moral and political aspects, but does not acknowledge any legal liability."



SEE ALSO
North Sea oil divers sue Norway
29 Jan 08 |  Europe

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