British Judge ends AML trial in Sierra Leone


February 14, 2018 By Regina Pratt

Prosecution and defense lawyers at the trial

British Judge, Hon. Mark Turner, has concluded a trial in Sierra Leone on Monday, February 12 at the Radisson Blu Mmmy Yoko Hotel in Freetown after the defense team cross-examined over thirty witnesses in an alleged human rights abuse matter involving African Minerals.

Some ex-workers of the defunct African Minerals (SL) Limited and villagers had filed a class action suit through Leigh Day legal firm in the High Court of Justice, Queens Bench Division Central Office, UK, for alleged human rights abuses against them and some other people that lived close to one of the mining areas in Sierra Leone.

The matter of Kadie Kalma and others versus African Minerals (UK) Limited, Africa Mineral (SL) Limited, and Tonkolili Iron Ore (SL) Limited is slated to last for six weeks. The trial commenced in the UK High Court on 29th January and continued in Sierra Leone for two weeks.

The remaining three weeks would be done in UK, where the court is expected to give a ruling.

The claimants alleged that they suffered mistreatment from the hands of the defendants in two separate incidents in November 2010 at the villages of Kemedugu, Kegbema and Ferengbeya, and in April 2012 around the town of Bumbuna in the Tonkolili District, where the defendants, Tonkolili Iron Ore Mine, is located.

The litigants alleged that the company played a role in the fatal shooting of 24-year-old Musu Conteh by armed police during a protest over working conditions and salary in 2012, but the AML denied liability for the incident.

One of the witnesses, Kellie Conteh, a carpenter, who was shot in the head, explained during cross-examination that an unknown police officer stopped him and threatened to shoot him if he moved.

Conteh told the court that he felt a sharp pain in his head and was subsequently admitted at the Makeni government hospital before he was transferred to Freetown but his condition got worse and was taken to Ghana for advanced treatment and removal of the bullet in his head.

Another witness, a driver attached to AML, who also testified in the landmark human rights violation matter was Mohamed Dabo. He said the Community Liaison Officer (CLO), Atkins Yallan Koroma, was not doing his job properly.

Dabo was responding to questions under cross-examination by defense counsel, lawyer Neil Moody.

Dabo disclosed that after the incident, which led to his arrest and detention, his relatives went to the CLO for assistance but to no avail.

He said a group of police officers and soldiers and Atkins Yallan Koroma dragged him to the AML camp, adding that when he called upon the CLO for help the latter ordered police officers to take them to the Bumbuna police station, but were transferred to the Mena police station before they were later charged to court in Makeni.

Defense counsel Moody then asked the witness if he was saying the truth and he replied in the affirmative.

Tamba Mansaray was also a witness at the trial. He is a former surveyor at AML. He told the court that he was arrested by four soldiers who took him to the AML camp.

He said he pleaded with a police officer called Kabia, who attempted to secure his release, but that the former was threatened by a certain military officer.

He told the court that he was taken from the camp to the Makeni police station where he was also charged to court.

Section Chief of Kegebema, Tamba Tholley, who was also cross-examined by the defense counsel, said he advised his subjects not to participate in any chaos.

He told the court that there was no formal arrangement for AML to mine at Yutinela village.

He refuted claims made by AML that youth barricaded the road, adding that those who own the company were responsible for the arrest of young people.