B’ville’s case may proceed in US

27 10 2011

BOUGAINVILLEANS being represented in a class action case in California, the United States of America, have won a major victory on Tuesday this week when an appeals court ruled that their case may proceed in US courts. 
Brent Walton of Hagens Berman told the Post-Courier from the United States that “unless the US Supreme Court steps in and stops the case, Bougainvilleans will get their day in court in the USA. That is the upshot of the whole opinion.”
The Bougainvilleans who allege mining company Rio Tinto (RIO) worked with the Papua New Guinea Government to destroy their culture and commit genocide, took the mining giant to court and since 2000, it has been on-going in the US.
Last year the case was dismissed and the lawyers representing the Bougainvilleans appealed against the decision. 
On Tuesday this week the lawyers representing the landowners won a major victory when the court ruled in their favour allowing the case to proceed in U.S. courts. 
The Bougainvilleans include Alexis Sarei, Paul Nearu, Thomas Tamausi, Aloysius Moses, Raphael Niniku, Gabriel Tareasi, Linus Takinu, Leo Wuis, Michael Akope, Benedict Pisi, Thomas Kobuko, John Tamuasi, Norman Mouvo, John Osani, Ben Korus, Namira Kawona, Joan Bosco, John and Magdalene Pigolo.
Hagens Berman has represented the residents of Bougainville, since the late 1990s. 
Rio Tinto operated a mine on the island. After an uprising by the residents of Bougainville forced Rio to close the mine, the company allegedly provided transportation for PNG troops who were brought in to reopen it. 
When these tactics failed, the PNG government instituted a military blockade, which the plaintiffs allege lasted 10 years and led to the deaths of nearly 10,000 people. 
In a statement from the managing partner for Hagens Berman and attorney for the residents of Bougainville Steve Berman could not wait to commend his team for the case decision.
“We are obviously very pleased with the ruling today by the Court of Appeals,” said Berman. This has been a marathon of a case, and Rio Tinto has been using every tool available to delay answering for their actions.”
The residents of Bougainville allege that Rio Tinto’s mining operations on the island resulted in the dumping of billions of tons of toxic waste, heavily polluting previously pristine waters. 
According to the lawsuit, this resulted in the exposure of dangerous chemicals to local residents, dispossessing them of their ancestral lands and destroying their culture.
The case was originally filed on September 18, 2000. 
The case was sent to the Court of Appeals when Rio Tinto questioned the District Court’s ruling that the plaintiffs were entitled to pursue claims of war crimes and genocide in U.S. courts without exhausting legal options in PNG first. 
By a vote of seven-to-four, the Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s ruling.
The court also ruled that the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) does not preclude the charging of corporate defendants for genocide and war crimes. 
Rio Tinto had claimed that only individuals could be charged under the statute.
“Rio has already delayed this case for over a decade, and many of its victims have passed on,” said Steve Berman. “We look forward to taking this case back to the District Court and holding Rio responsible for its actions.”





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: