22 Sep 2010

Bougainville landowners hopeful of success against Rio Tinto

6:49 pm on 22 September 2010

The lawyer acting for a group of Bougainville landowners who've taken the mining company Rio Tinto to court in the United States over human rights violations says they're optimistic about the chances of a victory.

A full panel of 11 appellate judges presided over the case after a 10-year fight to have it heard under an 18th century ruling allowing foreigners injured by a violation of international law to take legal action in the US.

Steve Berman says both sides argued as to whether the case should proceed there and one of the mining company's arguments was that the law allows only for the prosecuction of individuals, not companies.

But he says his clients remain hopeful.

"They still stand behind the lawsuit. They're very discouraged that it's taken us 10 years just to argue on the issue of whether the case can go forward. We've never actually been in court taking discovery, asking witnesses questions, looking at the documents. We've been stuck on these issues of foreign relations and political questions and whether corporations can be liable."

Steve Berman says it could take up to a year for the judges to decide whether the case can proceed.