Lawyers for the Marginalized Affected Property Owners (MAPO), a community association seeking justice for harmful mining practices in Kono, Sierra Leone, concluded their marathon of argument before the Court of Appeal in Freetown last Thursday, May 30, 2024.

The Court of Appeal is determining whether Kono community members and associations can take Koidu Limited, a multinational diamond mining company, to court for causing harm to their livelihoods, health, and their traditional lands.

At the court last Thursday, the lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Dr. Chernor Mamoud Benedict Jalloh, completed presenting arguments for the Plaintiffs, after which counsel for the mining company and its affiliates commenced his arguments.  Dr. Jalloh argued, among other things, that all citizens should have the right to sue to enforce Sierra Leone’s environmental laws, as environmental pollution affects everyone.

On Thursday June 6, 2024, when the court reconvenes, counsel for the respondents will be expected to conclude his arguments, after which the court will schedule a date for its judgement.

For now, the Kono community members and their civil society partners are keeping their fingers crossed, hoping that the Court of Appeal will expedite work on the case.  If the appellate court sides with the community, then the way will be clear for them to take Koidu Limited and its related companies to trial regarding alleged human rights abuses.

The hearing of the Koidu community’s appeal has become possible after a ruling on Thursday February 29, 2024, that struck out preliminary objections filed by the defendant mining company, Koidu Limited.

Last week’s hearing comes on the heels of the Court of Appeal’s ruling of February 29, 2024, which breathed new life into the Koidu plaintiffs’ case by granting their right to appeal.  The case was dismissed by the High Court in Makeni on October 27, 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.