The British High Court in Sierra Leone have wrapped up cross-examinations of 26 claimants and witnesses over an allegations of shootings, beatings, arrests, detentions and prosecutions and/or had property stolen or damaged as a result of two incidents that happened in Kemedugu in 2010 and in Bumbuna in 2012 by African The two-week court sitting hosted at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Aberdeen, was an open court session that allowed members of the public to attend and listen to the hearings.
Human Rights defenders including Abdulai Yillah from the Sierra Leone Human Rights Commission (SLHRC), Lansana Sowa and Abass John Kamara from the Sierra Leone Network on the Right to Food (SiLNoRF), were the last witnesses to be cross-examined yesterday before the court finally closed.
The defense team made referenced the Human Rights Commission report on the incidents and various witness statements made to Leigh Day. Defense stressed, “There were no evidences that locals were beaten by AML staff hence if they were beaten it will have been recorded in your reports.”
The Human Rights, Abdulai Yillah, expressed that they were looking specifically at complaints made by the Section Chief about the involvement of the police. He said, “Our investigations are directed by the goals so any irrelevant issues will not be recorded,” he noted stating that despites the fact that there were complaints about AML and police.
Justice Turner observed and asked the witness, “How were witnesses selected to be interviewed by the Human Rights team.”
Yillah responded that, “Names were mentioned by the Section Chief because he was the complainant who provided us with list of people and their contacts.
Abass John Kamara told the Court that in some of their visits to Kemedugu and other villages they were unable to talk with locals because according to him most of them had left the village. He said those they interviewed are the few that were able to run during the course of the incident citing that those that were arrested, beaten were already in prisons. He identified Kweku Lisk, lawyer for AML during the Court case whiles they hired the services of two lawyers for the villagers.
The Court cross-examined 22 claimants, witnesses on incidents that happened in and around the villages of Kemedugu, Kegbema, Ferengbeya and other villages in the vicinity of the AML mine in 2010 that led to arbitrary arrests, beatings, detention, and death of locals for failing to allowed the company to operates in their community without due negotiations.
The second case was in connection to an incident that did occurred in 2012 in and around the town of Bumbuna, approximately 8 kilometers from the mine, after peaceful mine workers strike resulted into police fired in discriminately at members of the community killing one Musu Conteh and injuring many others.
During the course of cross-examinations both prosecuting and defense lawyers raised series of objections and verifications stance on witness’s statements to the Human Rights Commission enquiry and that which they made to the Leigh Day Law Firm. The defense team was of the conviction that the witnesses are fake and that there stories and statements were make-up hence lots of questions and facts checking were done on both statements to ascertained consistency, originality and facts in their statements.
Barrister Moody QC headed the defense team in cross-examination of witnesses in a relaxed mode putting emphasis on the fact that, AML or their staff were never present on any of the scenes. There was not in any time of the incident any staff of AML gave instructions to police, participate in the beatings, arrests or any form of violence directly with the claimants.
Barrister Hermer QC and his prosecuting team were on a daily based ferrying witnesses from Tonkolili district to Freetown from day one to yesterday Tuesday 13 January 2018, to be cross-examined. On a daily basis there were fresh witnesses with unique stories about their experiences.
By Mohamed Kabba
Wednesday February 14, 2018.