Campaigners launch legal action against the UK for failing to list companies trading in conflict minerals

The campaign group Global Witness launched legal action against the British government for “acting unlawfully” in refusing to put forward UK companies targeted by UN sanctions.

“A number of UK companies known to have been trading in minerals sourced from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) should have been put forward to the UN Sanctions Committee,” said Global Witness. “By failing to adequately investigate the companies and individuals the UK government is breaching its international legal obligations.”

Evidence shows that British companies have supported armed groups by purchasing minerals from areas under their control in the DRC, claimed the group. Despite this, the UK government has never put any of them forward for sanctions.

“It is a sad day when we have to sue the UK government, but we hope that this case will mark a turning point. The issues at stake have global significance for how wars are financed,” said Gavin Hayman, Campaigns Director at Global Witness. “These companies have profited from a brutal conflict, and should face UN sanctions.”

UN Security Council Resolution 1857, passed in December 2008, called for a travel ban and asset freeze on all individuals and entities supporting illegal armed groups in the eastern DRC through the illicit trade of natural resources.

Through this legal action Global Witness is trying to force the British government to put forward for sanctions UK nationals and companies violating the terms of the UN resolutions.

Armed groups in the DRC are believed to be buying arms with the money earned from selling illegally mined tin and tungsen. The UN has recognised that companies sourcing directly or indirectly from the violent region are part of the problem.

“The UK government has steadfastly refused to act, which left us no choice but to take them to court,” said Hayman.

A 2009 report from the UN named UK company AMC’s Thailand-based smelting arm, THAISARCO, as sourcing from armed groups through their supply chains. The report also named a director of Afrimex as working with a trading house alleged to have financed Congolese rebels.

The UK government said that AMC no longer purchases minerals from eastern DRC and so no action is required.