Companies and Individuals
Global Witness aims to facilitate and aid prosecutions that clarify the use of existing laws to create accountability for crimes involving the exploitation of natural resources, human rights abuses and corruption.
Some recent examples of our casework include:
The Canadian/Australian mining company Anvil Mining provided logistics to the Congolese army during a massacre in Kilwa, DRC, in October 2004. At least 73 civilians were killed by soldiers of the 62nd Brigade of the Congolese Armed Forces. Following the failure of the Congolese system to deliver justice to the victims, Global Witness partnered with the non-governmental organisations Rights & Accountability in Development (RAID), the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ), and Congolese groups, to support an application for a class action in Canada filed by the victims of Kilwa. Read the press release and related material.
From 2001-2003, leading international timber wholesaler Dalhoff, Larsen and Horneman (DLH) bought timber from Liberian companies that were operating illegally and providing support to Charles Taylor’s regime during the civil war. DLH ignored repeated warnings from campaign groups over its handling of illegally obtained timber, and only acted when UN sanctions on Liberian timber came into force in 2003. In November 2009, Global Witness and partner NGOs lodged a criminal complaint against the company before the Public Prosecutor at the Court of Nantes, in France, under the charge of ‘recel’ - essentially accusing them of handling illegally obtained goods. Read the press release.
As head of the Oriental Timber Corporation (OTC) during Charles Taylor’s brutal tenure as Liberian president, Kouwenhoven was the biggest player in the timber industry that financed violent campaigns against the people of Liberia and Sierra Leone. Kouwenhoven has been on trial in the Netherlands since 2006, facing charges of war crimes and breaching the UN arms embargo in Liberia. Global Witness testified before the Dutch court, and our investigations and reports were used as evidence by the Dutch prosecutors. Originally convicted in 2007 of breaching the UN arms embargo, Kouwenhoven was acquitted by the appeal court in 2008. This acquittal was subsequently overtuned by the Dutch Supreme Court in April 2010 and the trial re-opened in December 2010.
In 2003 the Prosecutor for the Special Court of Sierra Leone filed an 11 count indcitment against then President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, accusing him of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, including pillage, murder, rape and the use of child soldiers. On 26 April 2012, the Court, sitting for this case in The Hague, found Taylor guilty on all 11 charges and criminally responsible for aiding and abetting in crimes, including pillage, murder and rape committed during Sierra Leone’s bloody civil war. The Court will now hold a sentencing hearing to determine the duration of Taylor’s prison term, which he will serve in the UK.
Judicial review against the UK government
Through their supply chains, UK companies have funded armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo by trading in minerals sourced from conflict areas, making them eligible for targeted UN sanctions. As a member of the UN Security Council, the UK government agreed to UN resolutions allowing asset freezes and travel bans on companies supporting armed groups. Despite a raft of evidence contained in UN expert reports, and UN resolutions calling for government action, the UK government has failed to adequately investigate companies named in these reports and put them forward for listing the UN Sanctions Committee. This is both morally wrong and legally unsound. In July 2010, Global Witness filed a claim at the High Court in London requesting a judicial review of the decision making process undertaken by the UK government in relation to which companies it chooses to investigate and/or recommend for listing. Permission to prceed was denied in October 2010. Read our response.
Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission -
Since 2000, Global Witness has highlighted the role of natural resources in financing armed conflict in Liberia and neighbouring countries. On 19 February 2009, we testified before the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), describing how companies such as the Oriental Timber Corporation (OTC), Dalhoff, Larsen and Horneman (DLH), Danzer and others became crucial cogs in Charles Taylor's war machine. We documented the patronage system through which logging concessions were granted to Liberian timber companies, highlighted the international dimensions of this resource-conflict axis, and examined the failure of the international community to intervene quickly enough. As well as presenting substantial evidence - much of which no longer existed in post-war Liberia - Global Witness also put forward recommendations for inclusion in the TRC's final report. Read the press release.
UK-registered company Afrimex traded in minerals such as cassiterite and coltan during the conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo. The mineral trade has fuelled the war by providing funding for armed groups. Afrimex is a prime example of the role played by international companies in this cycle. Through its suppliers, it made tax payments to the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie-Goma (RCD-Goma), an armed rebel group with a proven record of human rights abuse including civilian massacres, torture and extreme sexual violence. Global Witness submitted a complaint against the company to the UK National Contact Point (NCP), which looks at breaches of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. In August 2008, the UK NCP’s final statement upheld the majority of Global Witness’s allegations.
In conjunction with Liberian NGOs Save My Future and Green Advocates, Global Witness examined natural resource concession contracts between the Liberian government and two multi-national corporations, Firestone Liberia and China Union Investment Company. Our analysis exposed the inequity of these contracts and raised serious questions about whether the government had adequately represented the interests of its people in negotiating these deals. Of particular concern was the lack of human rights provisions in the contracts or consultation with the Liberian people . The primary aim of these assessments was to provide recommendations to the Liberian Government and civil society for future contract negotiations, but they have also acted as a useful tool for civil society in other countries.
Global Witness’s report, Getting to Gold, provides a unique analysis of two of the country’s biggest mining deals to date: the 2008 Aynak copper contract and the 2011 Qara-Zaghan gold contract. The report raises serious concerns over levels of transparency in both contracts, as well as the level of community engagement.
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