Copenhagen/London/Brussels, 16 July 2001 - In an open letter sent today to the DLH Group(1) in Denmark, environmental and human rights organizations called upon the company’s CEO to stop dealing with Liberian logging companies who -according to the United Nations- are said to be involved in arms trafficking. Liberia's troubled forests are a vital part of the Upper Guinean Forest, one of the most threatened biodiversity hotspots in the world. These forests are the only home left for the highly endangered Pygmy hippopotamus, and are the last stronghold in West Africa for forest elephants.
DLH exports logs into Europe from the Liberia-based logging companies, Oriental Timber Company (OTC) and the Royal Timber Corporation (RTC). A recent UN report from the Sierra Leone Expert Panel (2) highlights the key role played by the logging industry in Liberia in assisting arms trafficking. Not only does the industry provide Charles Taylor’s Liberian government with money through ‘unrecorded extra-budgetary income’, the report also states that logging trucks and logging roads near the border with Sierra Leone are used to provide the rebels from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) with arms and provisions.
“The RUF are responsible for the murders of hundreds of innocent people in Sierra Leone and have maimed thousands more. Unless a total embargo is placed on the export and trade in Liberian timber, the deadly collusion between the timber industry and the Liberian government means that arms trafficking with the RUF in Sierra Leone will continue unchecked,” said Patrick Alley, director of Global Witness in London.
The UN report lays particular emphasis on the role played by the chairman of OTC, Dutch national Gus Van Kouwenhoven. The Sierra Leone Expert Panel Report states that he was ‘responsible for the logistical aspects of many of the arms deals involved in arms trafficking between Liberia and Sierra Leone’. Van Kouwenhoven is on the board of the Liberian Forestry Development Authority (FDA), the government body assigned to monitor and document forest practices and exports. He is also the director of RTC, whose concessions are near the Guinean border, currently the scene of heavy fighting with anti-Taylor rebel forces.
Jacob Andersen, president of the Danish Environmental Group Nepenthes, said: "If DLH is serious about addressing social conflicts and environmental destruction, it should live up to its own environmental policies and its commitments as a corporate member of Amnesty International in Denmark. Clearly, DLH must stop dealing with Liberian companies immediately."
In the last decades, the destruction of the rainforest in West Africa has been extremely severe. The recent escalation of destructive logging in Liberia not only provides the Charles Taylor government with funds to support the rebels, it also jeopardizes the future ecological integrity of this critically threatened rainforest habitat.
"By buying timber from companies implicated in the destruction of Liberia’s forests and arms trafficking, DLH undermines the peace and security of all the innocent life – both people and animals– that depends on these forests,” concluded Filip Verbelen, Greenpeace forests campaigner for Africa.
For further information:
Nepenthes: Jacob Andersen: +45/126.96.36.199
Global Witness: Patrick Alley: +44/(0)207.272.6731
Greenpeace: Filip Verbelen +32/ 496 161 586
[images of OTC and RTC logs carrying the DLH logo are available upon request]
Notes to editor:
1. Dalhoff Larsen & Horneman A/S (DLH Group) is an international, Danish-owned holding company involved in the procurement, wholesale distribution and marketing of hardwood, softwood, sheet materials and plywood. The Group has subsidiaries and associated companies in Europe, North and South America, the Middle and Far East, Asia and Africa. DLH's environmental and ethical policies can be found at www.dlh-group.com
2. Report of the Panel of Experts appointed Pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1306 (2000), Paragraph 19 in relation to Sierra Leone. www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/sierra/report/001220.htm
3. Signatories to the letter include Nepenthes, Global Witness, Greenpeace International. For more information on the role of Liberia and its logging industry in national and regional conflict see www.oneworld.org/globalwitness/press/gwliberia. For more information on the relationship between the timber sector, arms trafficking and the destruction of the forests in Liberia - consult the report "Logs of War" - www.greenpeace.org/~forests (under Africa; documents). A copy of the open letter that was faxed to DLH is available upon request.
Press Release / July 16, 2001