Court room 1 of the British Supreme Court was packed with journalists, solidarity activists, law students and other observers over the two day hearing, sitting in rows behind the legal benches. Each law firm was represented by two or three QCs as well as five or so advising lawyers sitting in the second row. In front of them five judges were seated behind a semi circle bench facing the rest of court. The ornate and grand stone building of the Supreme Court is located directly opposite the Houses of Parliament across Parliament Square. The court room itself is high ceilinged, with large stained glass windows, paintings of historic judges and extremely ornate carved stone and woodwork throughout the walls, ceilings and benches.
Outside the court entrance a vigil
organised by Foil Vedanta continued throughout the two day hearing.
Protesters held large green banner stating ‘Make Pollution Political:
Justice for Zambia’ and a variety of placards with images of the
pollution and some of the claimants in the affected villages.
Cherie Blair, wife of former British PM
Tony Blair attended the first day of hearing, telling protesters
outside she was there to support the case for UK jurisdiction.
The latest hearing in the case of the Zambian communities consistently polluted by Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), a subsidiary of British miner Vedanta, was heard at the British Supreme Court on 15th and 16th January 2019. A vigil organised by solidarity organisation Foil Vedanta took place outside the court throughout the event in solidarity with the victims of ongoing pollution who have been fighting legal battles for justice in Zambia, and now the UK, for twelve years.
The court heard Vedanta’s second appeal against the High Court’s jurisdiction ruling in the case of Dominic Liswaniso Lungowe vs Vedanta Resources and Konkola Copper Mines. Vedanta attempted to overturn the High Court and Court of Appeal rulings which held that the case of 1,826 polluted farmers against the company and its subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines could be heard in the UK instead of Zambia. The case could represent a precedent in UK law, as, if a duty of care is found to be owed by Vedanta towards the claimants, this would be the first reported case in which a parent company would have been held to owe a duty of care to a person affected by the operations of a subsidiary who is not an employee of the subsidiary.12 This ruling could have major implications for British multinational corporations’ liability, a move which would be welcomed by British Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, who expressed solidarity with the claimants, stating:
British corporations like Vedanta cause toxic pollution overseas,
it’s absolutely right that they pay for the damage. I
stand in solidarity with all those whose drinking water has been
poisoned and livelihoods damaged by Vedanta’s irresponsible pursuit
of profit, and all those campaigning for justice.”