West African court finds Guinea responsible for 2012 mine site massacrePublished by MAC on 2020-11-11
Source: Advocates for Alternatives, E360, Reuters
The people of Zogota have been seeking justice for over eight years.
On the evening of August 3, 2012, Guinean security forces raided Zogota, located in the southeastern part of Guinea, shooting at random and burning homes. “They came at night, while people were sleeping,” Kpakilé Gnédawolo Kolié, president of the community, said in a statement. “We were woken up by the sound of bullets, they shot our fathers and brothers.” The communities had been protesting an iron ore project co-owned by Vale, the world’s top iron producer, and BSG Resources.
“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 in the court’s ruling.
Victory at the ECOWAS Court of Justice: Judges hold Guinea responsible for Zoghota Massacre
Nov 10, 2020
ABUJA, NIGERIA – 10 NOVEMBER 2020 – For over eight years, the people of Zoghota in southern Guinea have been seeking justice for the massacre that devastated their village. Today, they can finally celebrate a ruling from the regional ECOWAS Court of Justice declaring that Guinean security forces are responsible for the murder, arbitrary arrests, and torture of Zoghota’s citizens.
Just after midnight on 4 August 2012, Guinean security forces entered the community, firing wildly. They killed six villagers, wounded several others, burned homes, and stole personal property. “They came at night, while the people were sleeping,” said Kpakilé Gnédawolo Kolié, the President of the community, who is also the leader of the collective of victims of the massacre. “We were woken up by the sound of bullets, and when people went outside to see what was happening, they gunned our fathers and brothers down.” Some villagers who were arrested during the attack were tortured by soldiers who cut them on their arms, necks, and wrists. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and tortured Zoghota residents before and after the massacre, as well.
The attack was retaliation for a large-scale protest over employment practices and environmental destruction at the Zoghota iron ore mine owned by Vale-BSG Resources (VBG), an international mining conglomerate. During the protests, villagers from several of the communities surrounding the mine – led by the residents of Zoghota village – occupied the mine site and were accused of destroying company property.
The massacre was never investigated by Guinean authorities, and security forces and the company provided conflicting explanations for the killings. Guinean human rights organization Les Mêmes Droits pour Tous (MDT) filed a criminal complaint against several security forces commanders in 2013, but the case never advanced. Most of the defendants refused to appear before a judge to answer for their actions, and the file was eventually transferred to a military tribunal, where it languished. The mining company’s responsibility was never fully investigated, despite clear evidence of their participation in the planning and execution of the attack.
Represented by MDT and Advocates for Community Alternatives (ACA), a Ghana-based human rights organization, the people of Zoghota turned to the ECOWAS Court of Justice – a regional court with the power to hold West African states responsible for human rights violations – in October 2018. Today’s ruling was a complete vindication of their claims.
“The Court agreed that Guinea’s security forces violated the rights to life, freedom from torture and arbitrary arrest, and an effective legal remedy,” said Me Foromo Frédéric Loua, President of MDT. “Finally, after eight long years, the perpetrators of this heinous act will be held responsible for their crimes.” The Court also ordered Guinea to pay a total of 4.56 billion Guinean francs (approximately 463,000 U.S. dollars) to the victims and their families.
The action now turns to Guinea’s domestic courts, where community members have renewed their complaint against the security forces and demanded an investigation into the role that VBG played in the massacre. “It’s now time for the Guinean institutions to finish what the ECOWAS Court started, and to prosecute and punish the security commanders and corporate agents who executed the Zoghota massacre,” said Jonathan Kaufman, Executive Director of ACA.
The ECOWAS Court’s ruling also has important implications for the future of mining around Zoghota. VBG suspended its operations at Zoghota after the massacre and then lost its concession to mine iron ore there in a massive corruption scandal. However, Guinea recently announced plans to re-award the concession to Niron Metals, a company linked to Beny Steinmetz, one of VBG’s ultimate owners and beneficiaries. “We’ve told the government that there will be no mining at Zoghota until we see justice for the massacre,” said Mr. Kolié. “The ECOWAS Court’s judgment will help us to stand firm, because now we know that beautiful day is getting closer.”
November 10, 2020
West Africa’s top court has ruled that Guinea is responsible for the deaths of six people and the unlawful arrest, injury, or torture of 15 others in the village of Zogota during a 2012 conflict over abusive mining practices. The Economic Community of West African States’ Court of Justice, found that Guinean authorities violated protesters’ human rights and ordered the state to pay the villagers $463,000 in damages, as well as legal fees.
“For over eight years, the people of Zogota in southern Guinea have been seeking justice for the massacre that devastated their village,” lawyers representing the villagers said in a statement.
On the evening of August 3, 2012, Guinean security forces raided Zogota, located in the southeastern part of the country, shooting at random and burning homes. “They came at night, while people were sleeping,” Kpakilé Gnédawolo Kolié, the president of the community, said in a statement. “We were woken up by the sound of bullets and when people came out to see what was going on, they shot our fathers and brothers.”
The villagers in Zogota and surrounding communities had been protesting an iron ore project co-owned by the mining companies Vale, the world’s top iron producer, and BSG Resources. The activists’ protests included a sit in near the mine site and destroying company equipment.
“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, according to Reuters.
Both Guinean officials and Vale have long denied any involvement in what happened in Zogota.
Vale and BSG Resources suspended operations at their Zogota mine after the massacre, and later lost their concession to mine in the region. But Guinean authorities recently re-awarded the concession to Niron Metals, a company with close ties to BSG Resources, which hopes to restart mining in the region soon, the industry news site Mining.com reported.
West African court finds Guinea responsible for 2012 mine site killings
Nov 10, 2020
JOHANNESBURG - 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 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.