Global Witness welcomes the confirmation, in a landmark UN report published today, of strong links between the activities of brutal armed groups and the trade in minerals and timber in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Global Witness has been campaigning for over 10 years on the Congo conflict, and strongly backs the UN’s call for justice to be pursued for victims.
The report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on crimes committed in Congo between 1993 and 2003, originally leaked in August, sets out measures to hold perpetrators of the most serious crimes to account. Recommendations include setting up a special court or chamber in an existing Congolese court.
Global Witness is calling for all individuals known to have committed serious abuses linked to the competition over natural resources to be included in any future justice process.
“The international community has not done enough to stem vicious armed groups benefiting from the trade in minerals and other resources,” said Lizzie Parsons, Congo Campaigner for Global Witness. “This report is a stark reminder of the heinous crimes that have plagued Congo for nearly two decades and that are still taking place today. It robustly demonstrates the need to sever the link between the mineral trade and violence, and for individuals and companies to be held to account.”
The report was the result of an extensive study by Congolese and international UN staff to document the most serious cases of human rights violations between March 1993 and June 2003. The period included two wars fought in the country, involving armies of several neighbouring countries.
A litany of abuses were committed against the local population as armed groups fought to gain control of lucrative mines and trading routes and to hold their positions. The report outlines cases of killings, mass rapes, forced labour and torture. Groups used the huge profits from the resource trade to purchase weapons and fund their activities.
Armed groups continue to fight over mines in eastern Congo, and are still committing abuses against civilians in mining areas. Global Witness has documented how former rebels, now within the national army, have been earning millions of dollars per year by controlling eastern Congo’s largest cassiterite (tin ore) mine. Mines containing coltan, gold and wolframite (tungsten ore) are also the focus of violent competition, involving different rebel groups and units of the national army.
“Despite continued evidence that armed groups are making enormous sums of money from the minerals trade, measures to tackle the problem of militarisation of the mines have not yet resolved the problem. Congolese people should be benefiting from their country’s natural wealth, not suffering because of it,” said Parsons.
Global Witness is recommending that:
Individuals known to have committed serious human rights abuses linked to natural resources exploitation and trade since 1993 should be held to account, as part of wider judicial mechanisms for crimes committed in Congo.
Donor governments to Congo should provide assistance to enable such cases to proceed according to international standards and to support the victims of these crimes in obtaining redress.
The Congolese government should remove all army units from mine sites as part of a full demilitarisation of the sector.
All Congolese and international companies trading in minerals or components with minerals possibly sourced from eastern Congo should carry out full due diligence on their suppliers so to make sure they are not buying conflict minerals.