After several adjournments, on Tuesday May 21, 2024, the Sierra Leone Court of Appeal began hearing human rights claims that will determine whether community members can legally take on Koidu Limited, a multinational diamond mining company, for causing harm to their livelihoods, health, and their traditional lands.

At the court hearing in Freetown on Tuesday, the lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Dr. Chernor Mamoud Benedict Jalloh, advanced cogent arguments before the panel of judges on the 12 grounds of appeal.

His argument mainly centered whether the company can force residents to submit all their complaints to an internal grievance office instead of going to court, whether members of the public can sue to hold companies to environmental laws and commitments.  The stakes are high: if the defendants’ arguments are upheld, then communities could lose their rights to sue when mining companies harm them and instead be required to let the company resolve all complaints internally.

The other grounds of appeal will be dealt with on May 30, 2024, when the court will reconvene to continue its sitting on the matter.

The hearing of the Koidu community’s appeal became possible after a ruling on Thursday February 29, 2024, that struck out preliminary objections filed by the defendant mining company, Koidu Limited and allowed the appeal to go forward.  This ruling breathed new life into the Koidu plaintiffs’ case, which was dismissed by the High Court in Makeni on 27th October 2022, on the basis that the plaintiffs were not qualified to press their claims in court.  The dismissal order also ruled that the plaintiffs should have used a non-judicial grievance mechanism before going to court, despite also recognizing that the grievance mechanism did not actually exist.

Kono community members and their civil society partners were in court in their numbers, hoping that the Court of Appeal will quickly rule that their claims were wrongly dismissed by the High Court and send the case for a speedy trial.