28 July 2010 | Angeline Albert
Campaign group Global Witness has claimed the British government acted unlawfully when it refused to investigate UK firms alleged to be buying Congolese conflict minerals.
Global Witness is seeking a mandatory order in the High Court requiring the government to investigate and put forward for UN sanctions UK nationals and firms it believes have been trading in minerals sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It says this trade might have helped fund warring factions.
The UN Security Council resolution (1857) demands a travel ban and asset freeze be imposed on individuals and organisations supporting illegal armed groups in the eastern DRC through the illicit trade of natural resources. Another resolution (1896) encourages UN member states to put individuals and entities forward for sanctions.
“The link between natural resources and conflict in the Congo is well known,” said Gavin Hayman, Global Witness campaigns director.
“Armed groups controlling the trade in minerals like tin and tungsten use the money to buy guns and fund their violent campaign against civilians. The UN resolutions recognised 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," he added.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “The UK government expects all British companies operating in the minerals sector in the DRC to follow high standards of due diligence, and to make every effort to establish the route through which the minerals they buy have passed. We will continue to take reports that they are not doing so seriously, and will assess in each case whether there are grounds to consider recommending to UN partners that sanctions measures be imposed or supporting proposals for listings made by other states.”