Settlement agreed with Petra Diamonds Ltd for alleged victims of sexual abuse
A settlement has been reached on behalf of 25 claimants, represented by law firm Leigh Day, who alleged that they suffered serious human rights abuses, including sexual abuse, by security personnel at the Williamson Diamonds Mine in Tanzania.
Posted on 18 October 2021
Petra Diamonds Ltd, the parent company of Williamson Diamonds Ltd, has continued to deny the involvement of Williamson Diamond Ltd employees and has made no admission of liability.
In May 2021, a comprehensive settlement was agreed on behalf of 71 initial claimants represented by Leigh Day. The settlement included compensation for the claimants and a package of measures aimed at improving the lives of the communities around the mine.
On 12 May 2021, Petra Diamonds published the findings of its own investigations into the allegations. The report states that over an eight year period there were at least 1,700 arrests and that the mine’s security forces had used excessive force and caused injuries to artisanal miners, including by adapting their ammunition. The investigation established that there were 12 confirmed deaths of artisanal miners and likely deaths of four others. Additionally, Petra announced that it had been aware of allegations of gender-based violence at the mine prior to the investigations.
At the time of settlement in May, the parties were aware of many further individuals who alleged abuse at the mine but were not part of the original claim. An agreement was reached for Leigh Day to represent 25 of these individuals in order that their claims could be investigated and added to the cohort.
A settlement has now been reached for those 25 claimants. The settlement includes compensation and provision for the claimants to undergo financial training. Support in accessing medical assistance will also be provided to them.
Among the 25 are a number of female claimants who alleged they suffered gender-based violence, including rape, by security guards at the mine. Petra Diamonds have already announced the launch of a gender-based violence campaign to provide specific support and counselling for victims.
A further claimant in the group of 25 is a child who suffered a life-threatening open skull fracture during an incident at the mine. The settlement will enable them to have neurosurgery, restart their education, and purchase vital medical treatment for the rest of their life.
The settlement marks the end of Leigh Day’s cases involving Petra Diamonds Ltd and Williamson Diamonds Ltd with 96 claims settled in total. However, the settlements will continue to benefit the communities as Petra Diamonds and Williamson Diamonds implement the wide-ranging restorative justice measures that were agreed between the parties. This includes establishing a Medical Support Programme for surrounding communities, and the setting up of an Operational Grievance Mechanism (independently monitored) to allow any future complaints to be resolved fairly, locally, transparently and quickly.
Alex Wessely, associate solicitor at Leigh Day, said:
“Our clients are delighted with this settlement, which will allow them to access the medical treatment that they so urgently need. We are also happy that the settlement will compensate victims of gender-based violence, who are some of the most vulnerable people in society. The nature of this case regrettably meant that we could not represent everyone who alleged that they had suffered human rights abuses in Tanzania, and we will carefully monitor how Petra implements the Operational Grievance Mechanism and gender-based violence campaign to support those individuals.”
Stephen Bilko, solicitor at Leigh Day, added:
“We are very pleased to have settled claims on behalf of the 25 individuals who suffered serious and life changing injuries at the Williamson Diamond Mine. All too often companies operating in the gemstone mining sector are involved in allegations of abuses committed by their security operatives. We hope that this case sends a message to such companies that these abuses are unacceptable, and that they have a responsibility to prevent and remedy them. We hope that Petra Diamonds’ Operational Grievance Mechanism will provide a model for compliance with the UN Guiding Principles for the industry to follow.”