UK Supreme Court rules in favour of Zambian communities to sue British company in UK courts
Two thousand villagers in Zambia have been granted the right to sue the mining conglomerate Vedanta Resources, a transnational company headquartered in London and its Zambian subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) in UK courts. The company is accused of polluting the communities’ water supply and dumping chemicals from its mining activities.
During the court hearing, the mining company argued that the case against KCM should be tried in Zambia (not the UK). This was rejected by the UK High Court of Justice on the grounds that the villager would not necessarily have access to justice in Zambia.
The defendants (the mining company) further argued that allowing the case against Vedanta to be heard by UK courts would constitute an "abuse of EU law". The Supreme Court finally rejected also this ground of appeal and concluded that the plaintiffs had the right to sue Vedanta, as a company domiciled in the United Kingdom, in English courts. In its judgement, the Supreme Court refers to Article 4.1 of EU Regulation No 1215/2012 on Jurisdiction and the Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters (‘Recast Brussels Regulation’) which states that: "Subject to this Regulation, persons domiciled in a member state shall, whatever their nationality, be sued in the courts of that member state".
The case presents an important precedent that shows that parent companies can be held responsible for human rights abuses carried out by their subsidiaries abroad.
The full judgement« Vedanta Resources PLC and another (Appellants) v Lungowe and others (Respondents)” can be found in our library.