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23 Mär 2020

Andrew Denny, india Jordan, Olga Owczarek, Suzanne Spears, Allen & Overy LLP

UK Appeals Court rules African Minerals cannot be held liable for police's human rights abuses at iron mine in Sierra Leone

"Mining company not liable for unlawful acts of Sierra Leonean police," 19 Mar 2020

The Court of Appeal of England and Wales has upheld the High Court’s verdict in Kadie Kalma & ors v African Minerals Ltd & ors [2020] EWCA Civ 144. This is an important case for businesses exposed to human rights risks through their reliance on third parties, particularly state security forces, in relation to their operations abroad. The finding in this appeal confirms the limits on the circumstances in which a company can be held liable for harms caused by such third parties...

The claims were brought by 142 individuals who alleged that they had been harmed by the Sierra Leonean Police (SLP) during two major outbreaks of unrest and violence connected to the defendants’ iron ore mine. The incidents involved beatings, shootings, robbery, sexual assault and one death. Although the acts alleged took place on Sierra Leonean soil, the English court agreed to hear the case because the actual iron ore producer (the third defendant, Tonkolili Iron Ore Limited) was previously a subsidiary of African Minerals Ltd (AML), which had its head office in London before going into administration in 2015...

...the judge did find that, had AML owed a duty of care, it would have breached that duty in at least some of the respects alleged by the claimants. In particular, the judge criticised AML for having failed to follow the “recognised minimum standards” set out in the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPs) to reduce the risk of human rights abuses in communities located near the mine site. Specifically, as recommended by the VPs, AML should have carried out a security and human rights risk assessment, had in place a crisis management plan, engaged more with the SLP, and taken further steps to reduce the risk of the SLP using excessive force and mistreating people.