* Gemfields says will vigorously defend itself
* Gemfields owned by Pallinghurst
* Case may take months to be heard
LONDON, April 16 (Reuters) - Law firm Leigh Day has filed a case with London’s High Court against Gemfields, the miner that owns jewellery-maker Faberge, saying it represents more than 100 Mozambicans who have allegedly suffered human rights abuses, the lawyers said on Monday.
Gemfields, which describes itself as “a leading supplier of responsibly sourced coloured gemstones” said, together with its subsidiary Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM), it would vigorously defend itself and it denounced any form of violence or abuse.
Monday’s statement from Leigh Day, which acts on a no win, no fee basis, said it had served formal proceedings on behalf of the claimants, who allege they have been shot, beaten, subjected to humiliating treatment and sexual abuse, unlawfully detained, and/or forced to carry out menial labour.
Contacted by Reuters, the High Court said it could not comment.
Leigh Day said it could take months for the case to be heard.
Gemfields, which was formerly listed in London, is owned by Pallinghurst after it completed its acquisition of the London-based firm in December.
Both Gemfields and Pallinghurst on Monday referred Reuters to a statement on Gemfields’ website it first issued in February when it said Leigh Day had sought to settle out of court, but had not filed a formal claim.
“Should the claim be served, Gemfields and MRM would vigorously defend themselves,” the statement said.
“We recognise that in the past instances of violence have occurred on and off the MRM licence area, both before and after our arrival in Montepuez,” it said, adding these had often been between rival groups of artisanal miners and their handlers.
“Where such incidents have occurred, including instances involving our own employees, MRM has taken decisive and appropriate steps, working closely with the authorities, including providing humanitarian assistance to artisanal miners and community members,” it said.
Leigh Day has previously brought separate court actions in London connected with alleged abuses in Africa, arguing it was the appropriate jurisdiction.
“We have issued claims on behalf of our clients in London. London is where Gemfields has chosen to base itself, it is where it enjoys its profits, and where the claimants argue it has breached its duties to them,” Leigh Day lawyer Matthew Renshaw said. (Reporting by Barbara Lewis. Editing by Jane Merriman)