RAID and the Corporate Justice Coalition have officially lodged a letter with the UK Supreme Court requesting it to hear a case involving corporate human rights abuses by a British-based company, African Minerals Ltd, at its iron-ore mine in Sierra Leone.
The letter was filed under Rule 15 of the Supreme Court Rules, which permits civil society groups to make submissions in the public interest to the Court. The letter supports an application by the Sierra Leone victims for permission to appeal an earlier ruling by the Court of Appeal which absolved African Minerals despite its role in the abuses.
The case, Kadie Kalma & others v. African Minerals and others, concerns claims by local residents harmed during two violent security operations in 2010 and 2012. African Minerals paid, transported and accommodated the police as they brutally attacked residents, some of whom were protesting the mine for taking over their farms.
The Trial Judge found that, in the course of the police operations, “many villagers were variously beaten, shot, gassed, robbed, sexually assaulted, squalidly incarcerated and, in one case, killed.” African Minerals failed to take steps to ensure that the police did not use the extensive assistance the company provided in perpetrating such serious human rights violations.
Yet both the Trial Judge and Court of Appeal found against the victims. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Trial Judge that the company did not intend the human rights violations or owe local residents any duty of care, even though it assisted the police knowing that they were violently attacking residents.
RAID and the Corporate Justice Coalition said that if the Court of Appeal’s judgment stands it threatens to deprive communities of necessary protection and could severely undermine efforts to hold British companies to account for human rights abuses.
Widely recognised international standards direct companies to respect human rights in their security arrangements, though the Court of Appeal dismissed their relevance. Extractive industry companies often rely on private and/or public security forces, such as the local police, to protect their mining operations. In numerous cases documented by RAID, such security forces use excessive force against local residents, protestors, trespassers and innocent bystanders with the assistance of the companies, which take few or no measures to ensure respect for human rights.
“The case concerns matters at the forefront of business and human rights,” said RAID’s Executive Director, Anneke Van Woudenberg. “In absolving African Minerals of any liability for human rights abuses, the Court of Appeal judgment not only weakens international standards, it also sets back important progress made in recent years toward holding companies to account in UK and other courts.”
RAID and the Corporate Justice Coalition are hopeful that the Supreme Court will recognise the public importance of the issues raised in the letter and hear the appeal.
Read the letter to the Supreme Court here.