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Rights group sues UK government over failure to report DRC conflict minerals trade

UK rights group Global Witness (GW) [advocacy website] on Monday filed suit [press release] against the UK government for failing to report several UK companies to the UN Sanctions Committee [official website] for allegedly trading "conflict minerals" from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The group argues that the UK government is in violation of UN resolutions 1857 and 1896 [texts, PDF], passed in 2008 and 2009, respectively, which require countries to report any companies involved in trading DRC minerals, believed to have played a large role in ongoing violence [Washington Post report] in the African nation. GW cites violations listed in the 2009 UN Group of Experts report [text, PDF] to support the legal complaint. The government denies the allegations, stating that the UK Foreign Office [official website] has effectively monitored the mineral trade behavior of UK corporations. GW aims to obtain a mandatory court order requiring the coalition government to investigate the conduct of the government office and to ensure compliance with the UN sanctions.

Last week, US President Barack Obama [official website] signed [JURIST report] the Restoring Financial Stability Act [HR 4173 materials] into law. The legislation, which focuses on increasing regulation in the financial sector, included a provision requiring US companies producing electronic equipment like cell phones and laptops, to divulge what steps are being taken to ensure their products do not contain "conflict minerals" from the DRC. Last year, GW published a report claiming that international corporations that purchase minerals from the DRC are responsible for prolonging the conflict [JURIST report] in the African country. The report was critical of several specific corporations, including Amalgamated Metal Corporation, Afrimex and Traxys [corporate websites], for "turning a blind-eye" to the source of minerals they purchase and then sell to manufacturers. In the war-torn country, the Congolese military and numerous militia groups control mines responsible for production of gold and wolframite, and the report alleges that the unregulated market brings significant profit to these groups [BBC report], fueling the conflict. The current conflict in the DRC has been one of the most deadly in the world, claiming an estimated 45,000 [Guardian report] lives per month.

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