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West African court finds Guinea responsible for 2012 mine site killings

Tue 10th November, 2020 3:28pm
JOHANNESBURG, Nov 10 (Reuters) - West Africa's top court
held Guinea responsible on Tuesday for the killing of six
villagers and the illegal arrest, injury or torture of 15 others
during a protest near an iron-ore mine project owned by Brazil's
Vale and an Israeli billionaire.
    The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court
ruled that Guinea violated the human rights of the protesters,
and ordered the state to pay the plaintiffs total damages of
4.56 billion Guinean francs, or $463,000. It also ordered the
state to cover the costs of the litigation for both sides.
    "Guinea violated the right to life, the right not to be
subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment, the
right not to be arrested or detained arbitrarily, and the right
to effective recourse," said Justice Gberi-Bé Ouattara, reading
the court's ruling.
    On Aug. 3, 2012, Guinea sent troops and police to a site
near the mining project controlled by VBG, a joint venture
between Vale  VALE3.SA  and billionaire Beny Steinmetz's BSG
Resources (BSGR), after residents of nearby village Zogota
staged a sit-in.
    In the early hours of the following day security forces
opened fire. Some of the protesters who survived were later
tortured in custody.
    Guinea's mines minister did not immediately reply to a
request for comment. A lawyer for Guinea, in a briefing document
addressed to the ECOWAS court two years ago, argued that the
state had not ordered the security forces to kill or torture
protesters, and therefore bore no responsibility for the deaths.
    Vale, the world's largest iron ore producer, denied blame
for the unrest: "Vale states that it never supported any form of
violence at Zogota," a spokeswoman said in a written statement
when asked to comment on the court ruling.
    "In 2012, the VBG encampment was invaded by protestors and
its installations were damaged. For reasons of security,
employees were removed in an orderly fashion, safeguarding the
physical integrity of the entire team. Thereafter, VBG complied
with its duty of informing the local authorities," she said.
    When asked to comment, a spokesman for BSGR referred Reuters
back to Vale, which operated the site at the time.

 (Reporting by Helen Reid, Additional reporting by Bate Felix in
Dakar, Saliou Samb in Conakry, Gram Slattery in Rio de Janeiro
Editing by Peter Graff)
 ((Helen.Reid@thomsonreuters.com; +27 66 156 5214;))
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