NGO seeks British action over DR Congo 'conflict minerals'

26th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Campaign group Global Witness said Monday it was launching legal action against the British government for allegedly failing to refer companies trading Congolese "conflict minerals" for UN sanctions.

The organisation said a number of British companies have been trading in minerals -- including tin and tungsten, which is used in electronics -- controlled by armed groups fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This is in defiance of United Nations sanctions introduced in 2008 and 2009, it said -- accusing Britain of sitting by and letting it happen.

"Armed groups controlling the trade in minerals like tin and tungsten use the money to buy guns and fund their violent campaign against civilians," said Gavin Hayman, campaigns director at Global Witness.

"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."

Global Witness said it was applying to the High Court in London for an order requiring the new coalition government of Prime Minister David Cameron to put forward for sanctions British firms violating the UN resolutions.

"Sanctions are useless without a fair and clear government procedure for considering whether individuals or entities should be listed," Hayman said.

The British government was not immediately available for a response.

Athough endowed with vast reserves of gold, copper, cobalt and diamonds, DR Congo is one of the world's poorest nations, scarred by the 1996-2003 war that cost some three million lives. Ethnic fighting continues, largely in the east.

© 2010 AFP

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