Court grants anonymity order to six witnesses in Sierra Leone iron ore litigation


Re: Kalma & Ors v African Minerals Limited & Ors [2018] EWHC 120 (QB)

The 41 claimants in this case live in villages close to the iron ore deposit in Tonkolili, Sierra Leone. They allege that the defendants were both complicit and directly involved in two incidents, in Nov 2010 and Apr 2012 where they and other villagers were unlawfully assaulted and imprisoned by the Sierra Leonean Police. This judgment relates to an application that six of the claimants’ witnesses “should be provided with a degree of anonymity to mitigate the risk or fear that, if identified, they would face reprisals”. The claimants sought the establishment of a “confidentiality club” whereby named representatives of the defendants would be informed of the witnesses’ identities and have access to their unredacted statements in order to allow the defendants to make the enquiries needed to test the witnesses’ evidence.

The Court granted an anonymity order, having balanced the various factors in the case. “Notwithstanding the strong public interest in open justice and the potential for some level of prejudice to the defendant, the common law demands of fairness mandate that the anonymity of the six witnesses should be preserved.  The impact upon the public interest and any potential prejudice to the defendant, however, can and should be mitigated by the formation of a confidentiality club the final membership of which has yet to be determined.”

Richard Hermer QC, Eleanor Mitchell and Chris Buttler were involved in this case.