Global Witness, a rights watchdog, has urged the UN Security Council to start using targeted sanctions against companies that have failed to clean up their act and continue to support armed groups in eastern DRC via the illicit trade in minerals.
In a statement released on Monday to mark the Mobile World Congress opening in Barcelona, Spain, Global Witness said such minerals come from the volatile Eastern part of the DRC, where mines are controlled by the army and armed militias, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
Given what it considers as the reluctance of multi-national firms to face up to their responsibilities, the watchdog has urged the Security Council to adopt tougher measures.
“It is time for electronic companies to show their seriousness about eliminating conflict minerals from their supply chains,” Global Witness campaigner Daniel Balint-Kurti is quoted in the statement as saying.
“This means requiring suppliers that source minerals from DRC to declare exactly which mine the minerals come from, and carrying out spot checks and audits to back up these declarations. If companies cannot be sure that their minerals are conflict-free, they should not be buying them at all.”
The group stresses that metal found in everyday electronics items, such as mobile phones and computers, are being mined illegally in the Eastern DRC and funding a conflict that has caused millions of deaths.
UN experts’ reports have documented the links between minerals like tin, tantalum, tungsten, as well as gold, and the largely FDLR-stimulated conflict in eastern DRC.
According to the group, the UN Security Council recently passed a resolution paving the way for the imposition of asset freezing and travel bans on companies that support armed groups in eastern Congo via the illicit mineral trade.
“Consumers have the right to know that the products they are buying are not fuelling crimes against humanity,” said Balint-Kurti.
“Electronics brands and other companies that use conflict minerals now have a clear choice between showing leadership, or facing a public backlash.”
The watchdog body noted that the armed groups “regularly commit horrific abuses against the civilian population, including mass murder, rape, torture and forced recruitment”.