The British government is to face charges over its failure to surrender British companies and individuals trading directly or indirectly in conflict minerals and dealing with armed groups fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Global Witness is initiating legal actions against the U.K. government one of the largest donors of funding assistance to the DRC and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, for its defiance of United Nations sanctions introduced in 2008 and 2009.
“The UN resolutions recognized that companies sourcing directly or indirectly from the region are part of the problem. But in spite of our frequent appeals, the UK government has steadfastly refused to act, which left us no choice but to take them to court,” Global Witness campaigns director Gavin Hayman was quoted by AP.
According to Global Witness, a request for an order requiring the new coalition government of Prime Minister David Cameron, has been made to the High Court in London to put forward for sanctions British firms violating the UN resolutions.
For all its vast reserves of gold, copper, cobalt and diamonds, DR Congo remains one of the world’s poorest nations, as a result of the conflict-driven war that continues to swell the number of lives lost. “Armed groups controlling the trade in minerals like tin and tungsten use the money to buy guns and fund their violent campaign against civilians,” Hayman added.
The international campaign group insists that failing to adequately investigate both indifferent individuals and UK companies trading in conflict minerals from DRC, and thus perpetuating the violence, the UK government is breaching its international legal obligations. According to them, those resource-seeking corporations should have been put forward to the UN Sanctions Committee following UN Security Council resolutions in 2008 and 2009.
“These companies have profited from a brutal conflict, and should face UN sanctions – but sanctions are useless without a fair and clear government procedure for considering whether individuals or entities should be listed. But in spite of our frequent appeals, the UK government has steadfastly refused to act, which left us no choice but to take them to court,” Hayman added.
The trade in conflict resources, the acceptance of forest and mine concessions from rebel groups, and the customer-ship awarded to illegal militia and miners has perpetuated the decade long war in DRC, and Global Witness has accused the British government of sitting by and letting it happen.
The British government which is yet to comment on the issue has argued in the past that evidence collected ahead of the first UN resolutions don’t hold because the resolution lack a retroactive effect. But Global Witness argues that “retrospective evidence is sufficient to indicate reasonable grounds for ongoing concern – unless there is strong evidence to the contrary – to suggest that companies previously sourcing from armed group areas may well be continuing to do so.”