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North Sea Divers Sue Norway, Claim Oil Industry Covered-up Dangers of Deep Diving

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OSLO, Norway -- Several of the divers who played a key role in building up Norway's offshore oil industry are suing the state, charging that they weren't informed about the risks of diving as deeply as they did at the time in the North Sea.

The North Sea divers have sought compensation for years, after many were left with severe health and psychological problems after dives made in the 1960s and 1970s.

Now they claim they have proof that state officials covered up the health risks they faced when they were sent to work at great depths.

Government bureaucrats and politicians earlier have claimed that they didn't know what kind of risks the divers faced.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported over the weekend, however, that the country's oil directorate, labour authorities and several government ministries did know after all. The lawyer for divers represented by the North Sea Alliance has filed suit based on previously withheld state documents that detail the risks.

Lawyer Marius Reikerås claimed the documents prove later violation "of the most basic human rights that can be found." He also called the divers' case against the state "the most serious human rights case brought in Norway" since World War II.

Tom Engh, one of the pioneer divers in the North Sea, told NRK that the divers often feel they've been fighting a war against their own country.

"Now we can present documentation... and then we'll see what the consequences will be," Engh said.

State officials declined immediate comment pending review of the lawsuit.

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